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.

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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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

REVIEW: THE CLOSER YOU GET, BY MARY TORJUSSEN

Coworkers Ruby and Harry are in love—but they’re married to other people. They decide to tell their spouses that their marriages are over and to start a new life together. Ruby has wanted to leave her controlling husband for a while, so she tells him she’s leaving and waits at the hotel where she and Harry are to meet. But Harry never shows up.

Suddenly, Ruby has lost everything. Harry won’t answer her calls, and she’s fired from her job. She finds a cheap apartment in a run-down part of town, all the while wondering what happened to Harry.

Just as Ruby thinks she’s hit rock bottom, strange and menacing things start to happen—someone is sneaking into her apartment, and someone is following her home late at night—and she is going to have to fight for her survival.


Alternating narrators tell the story in The Closer You Get. First, we connect with Ruby’s voice, and then with Emma’s.

Two women trying to move beyond the disappointments in their marriages. Who can they trust? Will they find what they are seeking, or will they realize that there is nothing good to be found in those they turn to?

At first, we believe that Ruby will have her happily-ever-after, but when he seemingly dumps her without a second thought, she almost reconsiders leaving her husband. But he is keeping things from her, and his bullying ways continue, even after she thinks he might have changed.

Emma seems like someone who could be an enemy, but as time goes on, we realize that she has not found what she wanted either. She might be more of a victim than we realize.

Back and forth the story takes us, making us wonder just who these women can trust, and what further secrets will be revealed. Twisty moments that kept us wondering what would happen next led to me awarding this book 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: A PIECE OF THE WORLD, BY CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE

 

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.

As she did in her beloved smash bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America’s history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, she vividly imagines the life of a woman with a complicated relationship to her family and her past, and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists.

Told in evocative and lucid prose, A Piece of the World is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.

As I walked into the world of a complicated and somewhat isolated woman who is the primary character of A Piece of the World, I was fascinated with her interior thoughts, her interior world, and how she became the muse of the painter Andrew Wyeth, who spent more than twenty years sketching and painting her.

He came in the summers, literally seemed to move into the farmhouse, and immersed himself in the work. When the painting, entitled Christina’s World, was finally unfurled, we see how this artist truly saw his subject. Her complicated and seemingly isolated life was so much more. There were many stories beneath the surface, yielding an iconic character..

As I read, I felt truly sorry for Christina, but also had to admire her inner strength. She showed us how an individual can persevere and triumph. How one person could slowly reveal so many layers that can inspire others, seen by the world through one man’s art. A fictionalized story with a very human centerpiece. 4.5 stars.

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