REVIEW: HER THREE LIVES, BY CATE HOLAHAN

Gaslight goes high-tech in USA Today bestselling author Cate Holahan’s new standalone thriller in which a family must determine who the real enemy is after a brutal home invasion breaks their trust in each other.

Her public life Jade Thompson has it all. She’s an up-and-coming social media influencer, and she has a beautiful new home and a successful architect for a fiancé. But there’s trouble behind the scenes. To Greg’s children, his divorce from their mother and his new life can only mean a big mid-life crisis. To Jade, his suburban Connecticut upbringing isn’t an easy match with her Caribbean roots.

Her private life A savage home invasion leaves Greg house-bound with a traumatic brain injury and glued to the live feeds from his ubiquitous security cameras. As the police investigate the crime and Greg’s frustration and rage grows, Jade begins to wonder what he may know about their attackers. And whether they are coming back.

Her secret life As Greg watches Jade’s comings and goings, he becomes convinced that her behavior is suspicious and that she’s hiding a big secret. The more he sees, the more he wonders whether the break-in was really a random burglary. And whether he’s worth more to Jade if he were dead than alive.

 

 

rainy days thoughts

From the very beginning of Her Three Lives, I felt empathy for the position Jade is in, with a paranoid husband who seems to be tracking her every move.

Why is he so suspicious of her? He seems to be projecting his own issues onto her. Will she be able to turn things around, or will things only get worse?

As the story takes us back and forth between the characters, their suspicions, and the unfolding of what happened during the home invasion and afterwards…we can finally turn the last page to the answers. 4 stars.

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REVIEW: AT THE EDGE OF THE HAIGHT, BY KATHERINE SELIGMAN

Maddy Donaldo, homeless at twenty, has made a family of sorts in the dangerous spaces of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. She knows whom to trust, where to eat, when to move locations, and how to take care of her dog. It’s the only home she has. When she unwittingly witnesses the murder of a young homeless boy and is seen by the perpetrator, her relatively stable life is upended.Suddenly, everyone from the police to the dead boys’ parents want to talk to Maddy about what she saw. As adults pressure her to give up her secrets and reunite with her own family before she meets a similar fate, Maddy must decide whether she wants to stay lost or be found. Against the backdrop of a radically changing San Francisco, a city which embraces a booming tech economy while struggling to maintain its culture of tolerance, At the Edge of the Haight follows the lives of those who depend on makeshift homes and communities.As judge Hillary Jordan says, “This book pulled me deep into a world I knew little about, bringing the struggles of its young, homeless inhabitants—the kind of people we avoid eye contact with on the street—to vivid, poignant life. The novel demands that you take a close look. If you knew, could you still ignore, fear, or condemn them? And knowing, how can you ever forget?”

As a former resident of SF in the 60s, I was interested in what I would find in At the Edge of the Haight.

I felt a connection to Maddy and was intrigued by the relationships she had developed with other homeless teens. They had created a family of their own, one which was more meaningful to them then their own families of origin.

But as we learn more about that life and about the murder of another young teen, we can see that this existence offers an underlying sense of fear and powerlessness. As we trudge along with the teens while they struggle to overcome their daily challenges, I soon wanted the story to end. There was something so frustrating about how the young people turned away from chances to create a more stable life, even when people reached out a helping hand.

By the end, a glimmer of hope made its appearance, so then I was quite relieved to turn the final page. 4 stars.

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REVIEW: DON’T MAKE A SOUND, BY T.R. RAGAN

 

 

Plagued by traumatic childhood memories, crime reporter Sawyer Brooks still struggles to gain control of her rage, her paranoia, and her life. Now, after finally getting promoted at work, she is forced to return home and face her past.

River Rock is where she’d been abandoned by her two older sisters to suffer alone, and in silence, the unspeakable abuses of her family. It’s also where Sawyer’s best friend disappeared and two teenage girls were murdered. Three cold cases dead and buried with the rest of the town’s secrets.

When another girl is slain in a familiar grisly fashion, Sawyer is determined to put an end to the crimes. Pulled back into the horrors of her family history, Sawyer must reconcile with her estranged sisters, who both have shattering memories of their own. As Sawyer’s investigation leads to River Rock’s darkest corners, what will prove more dangerous—what she knows of the past or what she has yet to discover?

 
 
 

Don’t Make a Sound alternates between Sawyer’s narrative and the voices of women in a group called The Crew. Women who are seeking justice against men who assaulted them.

I enjoyed watching Sawyer as she tried to solve old and new murder cases, and how she tried to sort through the pieces of her past life, a life she had escaped.

Sawyer’s sister Harper suffers from OCD, while Aria, the youngest sister, hopes to have a normal life.

As I tried to follow the clues about “The Crew” members, I had my own theories. Would they prove true, or were there more troubling answers?

The twists and turns led to answers about the secrets of the past and River Rock, and I was pleasantly surprised that I had figured out the identity of one of the members of The Crew. 4.5 stars.

 
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REVIEW: YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN, BY JEAN HANFF KORELITZ

 

Grace Reinhart Sachs is living the only life she ever wanted for herself. Devoted to her husband, a pediatric oncologist at a major cancer hospital, their young son Henry, and the patients she sees in her therapy practice, her days are full of familiar things: she lives in the very New York apartment in which she was raised, and sends Henry to the school she herself once attended.

Dismayed by the ways in which women delude themselves, Grace is also the author of a book You Should Have Known, in which she cautions women to really hear what men are trying to tell them. But weeks before the book is published a chasm opens in her own life: a violent death, a missing husband, and, in the place of a man Grace thought she knew, only an ongoing chain of terrible revelations. Left behind in the wake of a spreading and very public disaster, and horrified by the ways in which she has failed to heed her own advice, Grace must dismantle one life and create another for her child and herself.

 
 
 
 

From the first few moments of You Should Have Known, I was caught up in Grace’s life as a therapist, a writer, and a diligent wife and mother. But then, unexpectedly, her life began to unravel. Perhaps the words she wrote in her book were even more true than she had realized: Perhaps she, too, should have known.

When the police begin hounding her and the other mothers at the tony private school shun her, she has a taste of what her new life will look like.

A glimpse back at the choices she had made and the relationship she had believed in revealed more than she could have imagined.

As she is forced to move beyond the life she had taken for granted, however, she begins to discover her true self. A rustic life in Connecticut has morphed into something she can savor. New friends, old friends rediscovered, and the unexpected resurrection of her therapy practice give her strength to start over.

This was a book I had begun reading years ago and now have found to be enjoyable. 4.5 stars.

 
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REVIEW: RAGE, BY BOB WOODWARD

Woodward, the #1 international bestselling author of Fear: Trump in the White House, has uncovered the precise moment the president was warned that the Covid-19 epidemic would be the biggest national security threat to his presidency. In dramatic detail, Woodward takes readers into the Oval Office as Trump’s head pops up when he is told in January 2020 that the pandemic could reach the scale of the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed 675,000 Americans.

In 17 on-the-record interviews with Woodward over seven volatile months—an utterly vivid window into Trump’s mind—the president provides a self-portrait that is part denial and part combative interchange mixed with surprising moments of doubt as he glimpses the perils in the presidency and what he calls the “dynamite behind every door.”

At key decision points, Rage shows how Trump’s responses to the crises of 2020 were rooted in the instincts, habits and style he developed during his first three years as president.

Revisiting the earliest days of the Trump presidency, Rage reveals how Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats struggled to keep the country safe as the president dismantled any semblance of collegial national security decision making.

Rage draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand witnesses as well as participants’ notes, emails, diaries, calendars and confidential documents.

Woodward obtained 25 never-seen personal letters exchanged between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who describes the bond between the two leaders as out of a “fantasy film.”

Trump insists to Woodward he will triumph over Covid-19 and the economic calamity. “Don’t worry about it, Bob. Okay?” Trump told the author in July. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll get to do another book. You’ll find I was right.”

In his follow-up memoir from the Trump years, Woodward does a brilliant job of summarizing his seventeen interviews with Trump. They were carried out in depth, over a period of time, and he was able to show the patterns that govern a man who is clearly out of his depth in his role as president.

From his attitudes toward all the events of his presidency, he reveals a tendency to look outward and to blame others and outside forces that were out of his control. Paranoia often characterized his actions.

Numerous vivid interactions carried this reader along on the journey, visualizing events as the author shared them, and sensing how, while being objective, he might have been hoping he could somehow guide the course for this presidency. It was soon apparent that this man is not one who listens or can be directed by experts, not even when he considers them “friendly.” His suspicions control his actions and misdirect him.

As Woodward concludes Rage, he characterizes the presidency as one “riddled with ambivalence, set on an uncertain course, swinging from combativeness to conciliation, and whipsawing from one statement or action to the opposite.” The author also sums up that Trump has enshrined personal impulse as a governing principle, and as a result, is the wrong man for the job. An opinion that many of us share. This book earned 5 stars from me.

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BOOK REVIEW: LITTLE DISASTERS, BY SARAH VAUGHAN

You think you know her…but look a little closer.

She is a stay-at-home mother-of-three with boundless reserves of patience, energy, and love. After being friends for a decade, this is how Liz sees Jess.

Then one moment changes everything.

Dark thoughts and carefully guarded secrets surface—and Liz is left questioning everything she thought she knew about her friend, and about herself. The truth can’t come soon enough.

 

When  little Betsey Curtis suffers an unexplainable head injury and is hospitalized, questions come from the hospital, the police, and even the people closest to the mother, Jess Curtis. What creates the most doubt is the sense that Jess is hiding something, which is why her story doesn’t add up.

The ER doctor who first saw Betsey is Liz Trenchard, who is a friend of Jess, so she is taken off the case. But she can’t stay completely out of searching for answers, albeit unofficially.

Little Disasters takes us back and forth in time, revealing the ins and outs of the friendships between the characters. As we follow the timelines and the clues, we slowly come to know what happened. But who will be most damaged if the full truth comes out?

As we follow along with Jess’s internal monologue, woven with her dark fears, we also glimpse Liz’s past and something that happened in her childhood. Can anyone be truly exempt from blame when bad things happen?

As we sort through the clues, we soon realize the emotional issues that plague Jess, and even how Liz’s own childhood traumas affect her now.

A sly character adds a menacing layer to the story, and when all is revealed, much can be resolved. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: HE STARTED IT, BY SAMANTHA DOWNING

 

Beth, Portia, and Eddie Morgan haven’t all been together in years. And for very good reasons—we’ll get to those later. But when their wealthy grandfather dies and leaves a cryptic final message in his wake, the siblings and their respective partners must come together for a cross-country road trip to fulfill his final wish and—more importantly—secure their inheritance.

But time with your family can be tough. It is for everyone.

It’s even harder when you’re all keeping secrets and trying to forget a memory, a missing person, an act of revenge, the man in the black truck who won’t stop following your car—and especially when at least one of you is a killer and there’s a body in the trunk. Just to name a few reasons.

But money is a powerful motivator. It is for everyone.


What a road trip we join with the Morgan family in He Started It. The current road trip was one that their grandfather had taken them on years before, and which they are duplicating in order to get their sizable inheritance.

As we join the family in the present, we are offered glimpses into the original road trip, and we know immediately that there are big secrets…from that first trip and from their family lives. Grandpa is not a cuddly old man, and each of the siblings has major flaws and lies they are covering. Whenever something went amiss, they didn’t accept responsibility, because, as they said of Grandpa: “He started it!”

I thought I could guess the conclusion, as Beth, our first-person narrator, keeps us up on how her mind is working through her flashbacks and internal monologue. But is she telling the truth, or is she hiding the biggest secrets of all? And all along, we ask ourselves what is the real meaning of this duplicated trip?

I was stunned as each new revelation gripped me, and the final denouement left me with my mouth hanging open. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: HIS & HERS, BY ALICE FEENEY

 

When a woman is murdered in Blackdown, a quintessentially British village, newsreader Anna Andrews is reluctant to cover the case. Detective Jack Harper is suspicious of her involvement, until he becomes a suspect in his own murder investigation.

Someone isn’t telling the truth, and some secrets are worth killing to keep.

Narrated by alternating characters, His & Hers weaves a tale of darkness, secrets, school bullying, and murder. As we follow the path between the past and the present, we are shown connections that will lead us to the answers.

Anna Andrews tells “her” view of events, while her ex-husband Jack Harper reveals his perspective.

A group of girls that were connected at school, and who were not exactly friends— but frenemies—do not appear to share connections in the present. But then we begin to note how their present-day lives do intersect…when they all begin to turn up as murder victims, one by one.

Who is targeting them? Not knowing who to trust, we muddle along. Just when we begin to figure it out, the author throws a few dramatic curves, and we are biting our nails as we plummet toward the denouement.

An alternate narrative from the killer reveals the details as they unfold, and we finally know the identity of that individual at the very end. I loved trying to guess who did what, and the satisfactory conclusion for my favorite characters left me smiling. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE REQUEST, BY DAVID BELL

Ryan Francis has it all—great job, wonderful wife, beautiful child—and he loves posting photos of his perfect life on social media. Until the night his friend Blake asks him to break into a woman’s home to retrieve incriminating items that implicate Blake in an affair. Ryan refuses to help, but when Blake threatens to reveal Ryan’s darkest secret—which could jeopardize everything in Ryan’s life—Ryan has no choice but to honor Blake’s request.

When he arrives at the woman’s home, Ryan is shocked to find her dead—and just as shocked to realize he knows her. Then his phone chimes, revealing a Facebook friend request from the woman. With police sirens rapidly approaching, Ryan flees, wondering why his friend was setting him up for murder.

Determined to keep his life intact and to clear his name, Ryan must find the real murderer—but solving the crime may lead him closer to home than he ever could have imagined.

 

From the very beginning pages of The Request, we can tell that Ryan is in for some difficult times ahead, and the past is about to come back to haunt his present.

With friends like Blake, who needs enemies? There is so much wrong with Blake’s request and the demands he is making, but Ryan is too caught up in it all to unpack them. The fact of a woman blackmailing him at the same time confuses it all, but definitely kept me turning the pages.

There is something a little off about Amanda, although we can’t pinpoint what is wrong with her, other than possibly being overwhelmed with being home all day every day with a new baby.

Will she figure out the dark secrets Ryan is hiding, and will Ryan be able to deal with Blake’s demands while fending off the blackmailer?

Issues of trust/mistrust and dark secrets combined with technical issues like social media hacking kept me intrigued throughout. A compelling story that was intense and suspenseful. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE HOUSE GUEST, BY MARK EDWARDS

 

When British twenty-somethings Ruth and Adam are offered the chance to spend the summer housesitting in New York, they can’t say no. Young, in love and on the cusp of professional success, they feel as if luck is finally on their side.

So the moment that Eden turns up on the doorstep, drenched from a summer storm, it seems only right to share a bit of that good fortune. Beautiful and charismatic, Eden claims to be a friend of the homeowners, who told her she could stay whenever she was in New York.

They know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers—let alone invite her.

As suspicions creep in that Eden may not be who she claims to be, they begin to wonder if they’ve made a terrible mistake…

As I was drawn into the story of The House Guest, I was leery of almost every character that appeared. Especially Eden. Who could possibly trust anything she said or did?

But as the story leads us along, and as we meet other characters, all of whom seem suspicious and/or nefarious, I couldn’t stop turning the pages.

What would happen to Ruth when she mysteriously disappeared? Who was behind it, and would Adam figure it out, with the help of a mysterious stranger who seemed to be stalking him?

What did the homeowners, Mona and Jack, have to do with what was happening? Was Eden an old friend, or were they, too, involved in the cult-like events that surrounded them all?

I liked trailing along after the characters and the story, trying to decide who was evil and who was good. In the end, we are quickly swept away to a beautiful beach setting…and we think it is all over. But is it? 5 stars.

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