REVIEW: THE FRENCH GIRL, BY LEXIE ELLIOTT

 

They were six university students from Oxford–friends and sometimes more than friends–spending an idyllic week together in a French farmhouse. It was supposed to be the perfect summer getaway…until they met Severine, the girl next door.

For Kate Channing, Severine was an unwelcome presence, her inscrutable beauty undermining the close-knit group’s loyalties amid the already simmering tensions. And after a huge altercation on the last night of the holiday, Kate knew nothing would ever be the same. There are some things you can’t forgive. And there are some people you can’t forget…like Severine, who was never seen again.

Now, a decade later, the case is reopened when Severine’s body is found in the well behind the farmhouse. Questioned along with her friends, Kate stands to lose everything she’s worked so hard to achieve as suspicion mounts around her. Desperate to resolve her own shifting memories and fearful she will be forever bound to the woman whose presence still haunts her, Kate finds herself buried under layers of deception with no one to set her free…

 

My Thoughts: In Kate’s first person voice, we follow the story in The French Girl. A mystery, possibly a murder, and suspicion that turns friends against one another as the investigator zeroes in on them all. Set in London, the story takes us to the French countryside as the investigator continues his search for a killer.

Kate is literally haunted by Severine, seeing her in various poses as she goes through her days and nights. Do the hauntings hint that she knows more than she thinks? Can she figure out the truth of what happened? Or will she finally realize that her memories have been hidden from her for a reason?

There were many characters to loathe, like Caro, whose presence in Kate’s life these days is an annoying and disturbing reminder of those feelings.

What about Tom, who seems to know more than he is letting on? And then there is Lara, her best friend, who might be hiding something, too.

And, years after their stunning break-up, Kate has to look again at her relationship with Seb…wondering if there are dark secrets she hadn’t previously considered.

I figured out the perpetrator early on, but couldn’t wait to see how it would all play out. I couldn’t stop turning pages, and I enjoyed how Kate’s world seemed to right itself in the end. 4.5 stars.***

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RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “NOT THAT I COULD TELL”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, First Chapter/Intros, originally hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea and now hosted by I’d Rather Be at the Beach; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s feature is my “up next” e-ARC from Jessica Strawser:  Not That I Could Tell, in which an innocent night of fun takes a shocking turn. (Release Date:  3/27)

 

Intro:  Everyone’s Favorite Place!

–TAGLINE OF THE YELLOW SPRINGS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Izzy awoke to a deafening downpour beating on the roof of her little Cape Cod.  It reached through the dense fog of heavy sleep, through the punishing pain of the previous night’s overindulgence, and tugged at the corner of her conscious mind just enough to pull it aside and reveal the too-familiar memory of Josh hovering there.  In an instant, she regretted it all — the last glasses of wine that had brought on this ache and this haze, the humiliation of having told her new neighbors all they never needed to know about Josh, even the purchase of this house that placed the pounding rain just on the other side of the ceiling that sloped down to meet her bed.

***

Teaser:  “Wait for Mommy!  Wait for Mommy!” the woman was crying, lunging to grab one of his limbs, coming up empty, and Clara watched her body jerk in indecision between running along the ground beneath the edge and climbing up after him. (60%).

***

Synopsis:  When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce—and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her—and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions—especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.

***

What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

***

RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “THE BAD DAUGHTER”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, First Chapter/Intros, originally hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea and now hosted by I’d Rather Be at the Beach; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s feature is a recent download:  The Bad Daughter, by Joy Fielding, a gripping, edge-of-your-seat thriller of family intrigue and dark secrets, from the author of Someone Is Watching and See Jane Run.

 

Intro:  The tingling started in the pit of her stomach, a vague gnawing that quickly traveled to her chest, then spread upward and outward until it reached her neck.  Invisible fingers wrapped around her throat and pressed down hard on her windpipe, cutting off her supply of oxygen, rendering her dizzy and light-headed.  I’m having a heart attack, Robin thought.  I can’t breathe.  I’m going to die.

***

Teaser:  The sisters resumed their seats at the table, the only sound the scrape of their spoons against the sides of the ice cream bowls.  “Do you think Kenny’s right that Dad and Cassidy will somehow pull through?” Robin asked after a silence of several minutes. (p.61).

***

Synopsis:  A voice mail from her estranged sister, Melanie, sends Robin’s heart racing and her mind spiraling in a full-blown panic attack. Melanie’s message is dire: Their father, his second wife, and his twelve-year-old stepdaughter have been shot—likely in a home invasion—and lie in the hospital in critical condition.

It’s been more than five years since Robin turned her back on her father when he married her best friend. Five years since she said goodbye to her hometown of Red Bluff, California, and became a therapist. More than two years since Robin and Melanie have spoken. Yet even with all that distance and time and acrimony, the past is always with Robin.

Now she must return to the family she left behind. As she attempts to mend fences while her father clings to life, Robin begins to wonder if there is more to the tragedy than a botched burglary attempt. It seems that everyone—Robin’s mercurial sister, her less-than-communicative nephew, her absent brother, and even Tara, her father’s wife—has something to hide. And someone may have put them all in grave danger.

***

What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

***

REVIEW: AN EARLY WAKE, BY SHEILA CONNOLLY

Summer is ending in County Cork, Ireland, and with it the tourist season. Expat Maura Donovan is determined to keep Sullivan’s Pub in the black as the days grow shorter—but how? When she hears that the place was once a hot spot for Irish musicians who’d come play in the back room, she wonders if bringing back live music might be Sullivan’s salvation.

As word gets out, legendary musicians begin to appear at the pub, and the first impromptu jam session brings in scores of music lovers. But things hit a sour note when Maura finds a dead musician in the back room the next morning. With a slew of potential suspects, it’s going to take more than a pint and a good think to force a murderer to face the music.

 

My Thoughts: In this third County Cork outing, we find Maura Donovan in a contemplative mood, pondering the six months she has run the pub, an unexpected inheritance. An Early Wake offers a glimpse of the bucolic life Maura has come to accept, even though she realizes that, at this point, she doesn’t really have a plan.

She doesn’t have ledgers or a computer, and her take from the pub seems to be all cash. She manages to pay her staff, which consist of Old Jimmy and his daughter Rose…and Bridget Nolan’s grandson Mick. She also manages to keep in the supplies and pay for electricity.

Next door to Maura’s cottage, also a part of her inheritance, lives Bridget Nolan, who offers tea and wisdom each day.

Old Billy, who takes up daily residence in the back corner of the pub, feels like a fixture, but he offers stories, wisdom, and somehow brings the musicians to the pub by word of mouth.

While this story offers little in the way of in-depth information on the villagers or even the regulars who show up at the pub, we still have a sense of the easy-going life of those who have become Maura’s new world. I loved the idyllic feeling, and even when the musicians’ jam fest brought the hint of violence along with the death of the musician, we could also feel secure that the steady law enforcement, embodied by Sean Murphy, could handle whatever came up.

As I settled into the story, I found myself wanting more. Knowing another outing could bring additional layers and more depth to Maura’s life, I felt a surge of hope that she could even find a love interest. 4.5 stars.

***

RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, First Chapter/Intros, originally hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea and now hosted by I’d Rather Be at the Beach; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s feature is a relatively new download:  An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones,  a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward–with hope and pain–into the future.

 

Intro:  (Roy)

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who leave home, and those who don’t.  I’m a proud member of the first category.  My wife, Celestial, used to say that I’m a country boy at the core, but I never cared for that designation.  For one, I’m not from the country per se.  Eloe, Louisiana, is a small town.  When you hear “country,” you think raising crops, baling hay, and milking cows.  Never in my life have I picked a single cotton boll, although my daddy did.  I have never touched a horse, goat, or pig, nor have I any desire to.  Celestial used to laugh, clarifying that she’s not saying I’m a farmer, just country.  She is from Atlanta, and there was a case to be made that she is country, too.  But let her tell it, she’s a “southern woman,” not to be confused with a “southern belle.”  For some reason, “Georgia peach” is all right with her, and it’s all right with me, so there you have it.

***

Teaser:  (Celestial)

I used to see him sometimes, so I had become accustomed to the stuttered breath, the dancing hairs on my suddenly cold arms and neck.  You can live with ghosts.  Gloria says that her mother returned to her every Sunday morning for over a year. (73%).

***

Synopsis:  Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control.

***

What do you think?  Do you want to keep reading?

***

REVIEW: BLOOD SISTERS, BY JANE CORRY

 

Three little girls set off to school one sunny morning. Within an hour, one of them is dead.

Fifteen years later, Kitty can’t speak and has no memory of the accident that’s to blame. She lives in an institution, unlikely ever to leave. But that doesn’t keep her from being frightened when she encounters an eerily familiar face.

Art teacher Alison looks fine on the surface. But the surface is a lie. She’s struggling to make ends meet and to forget the past. When a teaching job at a prison opens up, she takes it, despite her fears. Maybe this is her chance to set things right. Then she starts to receive alarming notes; next, her classroom erupts in violence.

Meanwhile, someone is watching both Kitty and Alison. Someone who never forgot what happened that day. Someone who wants revenge. And only another life will do. . .

 

My Thoughts: Alternating narrators, Alison and Kitty, reveal the story in Blood Sisters. Dual timelines flash back to 2001, when an accident happened, to 2016, when Alison and Kitty are dealing with events in very different ways.

From the beginning, we are aware that something led up to that accident, something that still haunts both sisters. Alison buries her feelings in her art…and occasional cutting.

Kitty, unable to speak, has flashes of memory, but is unable to express any of her thoughts.

Even when, in moments we see in 2001, we learn about what happened, there is also a deep and underlying darkness that has not come forth. What are the characters hiding?

In the beginning, I found the story slow and sometimes confusing. I didn’t warm up to the characters until we began seeing the moments from the past…and I realized the depths of rivalry between the sisters. As I kept turning the pages, I was captivated by finding out just one more secret. There were so many, and so many surprising twists and turns. By the end, I kept waiting for the final one that might reveal the unexpected darkness in each of them. 4 stars.

***

RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “BLOOD SISTERS”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, First Chapter/Intros, originally hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea and now hosted by I’d Rather Be at the Beach; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s feature is Blood Sisters, by Jane Corry,  a new thriller featuring three girls, one accident, and a lifetime of lies.

 

 

Intro:  (September 2016, Alison)

Careful.  It’s not the size that counts.  It’s the sharpness.  And the angle.  The blade must sing.  Not scratch.

I hold the piece of blue glass up to the window light.  It’s the same color as the type you occasionally see in bottles lining the shelves of old-fashioned pharmacies.  A nice clean cut.  No sharp bits that need trimming, which is always tricky.  So easy to get splinters of glass in your skin or on your clothes.

***

Teaser:  (May 2017, Alison)

There’s an atmosphere in the prison the next day.  I can smell it.  Taste it.  Something is going to happen.  You sense it when you’ve been here a while. (53%).

***

Synopsis:  Three little girls set off to school one sunny morning. Within an hour, one of them is dead.

Fifteen years later, Kitty can’t speak and has no memory of the accident that’s to blame. She lives in an institution, unlikely ever to leave. But that doesn’t keep her from being frightened when she encounters an eerily familiar face.

Art teacher Alison looks fine on the surface. But the surface is a lie. She’s struggling to make ends meet and to forget the past. When a teaching job at a prison opens up, she takes it, despite her fears. Maybe this is her chance to set things right. Then she starts to receive alarming notes; next, her classroom erupts in violence.

Meanwhile, someone is watching both Kitty and Alison. Someone who never forgot what happened that day. Someone who wants revenge. And only another life will do. . .

***

What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

***

REVIEW: LIE WITH ME, BY SABINE DURRANT

 

It starts with a lie. The kind we’ve all told – to a former acquaintance we can’t quite place but still, for some reason, feel the need to impress. The story of our life, embellished for the benefit of the happily married lawyer with the kids and the lovely home.

And the next thing you know, you’re having dinner at their house, and accepting an invitation to join them on holiday – swept up in their perfect life, the kind you always dreamed of…

Which turns out to be less than perfect. But by the time you’re trapped and sweating in the relentless Greek sun, burning to escape the tension all around you – by the time you start to realize that, however painful the truth might be, it’s the lies that cause the real damage…
… well, by then, it could just be too late.

My Thoughts: Lie With Me is a gripping tale narrated in the first person voice of Paul Morris, a writer, whose life is not turning out the way he had hoped. When he runs into an old Cambridge University friend, Andrew Hopkins, he is less than thrilled. There is something about Andrew that always makes him feel…less than. But he can’t show any of this, so he accepts an invitation to dinner.

The lies come tripping off his tongue when Andrew, and then the other guests, ask questions about his work, his life, etc. Little white lies, of course. But the closer he gets to them all, including an attractive woman named Alice Mackenzie, with whom he quickly becomes involved, he finds himself caught up in a web of lies.

The invitation to a Greek holiday comes later, but by then, the story of his life is caught in the trap he has created.

In Greece, nothing is the way he had hoped, and soon the chaos of the friends and their families, their expectations, and Alice’s quest to find a young girl who disappeared ten years before…all of it becomes a disaster in the making. Andrew’s behavior is strange, and so is Alice’s. Are the two of them involved? Are they keeping secrets? Why are odd things happening around the house, where a renovation is taking place?

My thoughts about the characters were negative, overall. Alice was evasive, sneaky, and she and Andrew always seemed to be huddled somewhere, whispering. I didn’t trust either of them, even though Paul had not been truthful about a lot of things. The teens, as usual, were also creating havoc.

Before the story comes to a crashing conclusion, we realize that nothing is as it seems, and Paul is in a lot of trouble. By the time Paul discovers the truth, it is too late for him. Unless someone can extricate him from the mess created not just by his lies…but by the secrecy and manipulation of others. The ending left us hanging…but hopeful. 4.5 stars.

 ***

RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “LOOK FOR ME”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, First Chapter/Intros, originally hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea and now hosted by I’d Rather Be at the Beach; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s excerpt is from a recent download:  Look for Me (e-book, D.D. Warren), by Lisa Gardner, the author’s latest twisty thrill ride, in which Detective D. D. Warren and Find Her‘s Flora Dane return in a race against the clock to either save a young girl’s life…or bring her to justice.

 

 

 

Intro:  (Prologue)

A year later, what Sarah remembered most was waking up to the sound of giggling.

“Shhh.   Not so loud!  My roommates hate it when I bring boys home.  Killjoys need their beauty sleep.”

“So, no making noises?  Like this?”  A wolf howl from outside Sarah’s bedroom door.

Fresh giggling.  Then loud thumps as someone, probably Heidi, ran into the coffee table, the couch, the standing lamp.

***

Teaser:  We all hurt in our own way, I thought.  And whether I liked Anya Seton or not, she clearly had her fair share of scars.  She’d do well in New York.  Between her exotic looks and iron will, nothing would hold her back. (58%).

***

Synopsis:  The home of a family of five is now a crime scene: four of them savagely murdered, one—a sixteen-year-old girl—missing. Was she lucky to have escaped? Or is her absence evidence of something sinister? Detective D. D. Warren is on the case—but so is survivor-turned-avenger Flora Dane. Seeking different types of justice, they must make sense of the clues left behind by a young woman who, whether as victim or suspect, is silently pleading, Look for me.

***

Another thriller from a favorite author.  What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

***

REVIEW: HERE WE LIE, BY PAULA TREICK DEBOARD

 

Megan Mazeros and Lauren Mabrey are complete opposites on paper. Megan is a girl from a modest Midwest background, and Lauren is the daughter of a senator from an esteemed New England family. When they become roommates at a private women’s college, they forge a strong, albeit unlikely, friendship, sharing clothes, advice and their most intimate secrets.

The summer before senior year, Megan joins Lauren and her family on their private island off the coast of Maine. It should be a summer of relaxation, a last hurrah before graduation and the pressures of post-college life. Then late one night, something unspeakable happens, searing through the framework of their friendship and tearing them apart. Many years later, Megan publicly comes forward about what happened that fateful night, revealing a horrible truth and threatening to expose long-buried secrets.

My Thoughts: In the beginning of Here We Lie, a press conference is about to start. Lauren Mabrey manages to push her way into the room, where she waits for what is about to be divulged.

Flash back to the late 1990s, where we meet Megan Mazeros, living in Kansas, watching her father die very slowly of mesothelioma. She foregoes the beginning of college while helping out her family.

A year later, she moves to Connecticut to attend Keale College in Scofield. She doesn’t meet Lauren until later in the year, but despite the drastic differences between them, they become fast friends.

However, the friendship is never really equal, since Lauren’s life of privilege keeps her on a slightly elevated plane.

When something traumatic happens to Megan the summer before their final year of college, Lauren doesn’t even bother to listen. She blames Megan, and the rift between them is insurmountable.

Alternately narrated by Lauren and Megan, I could not put this story down. It brought out a timely reminder of power and privilege, and how there are always those who are considered more credible than others. I rooted for both girls as they struggled on their way to becoming women, as they each had their own obstacles. Lauren came from a world of privilege, but her family treated her as “less than.” Her desires and ambitions did not fit the family image.

Megan suffered on the other side of that divide, and it took many years to bring her into her own. An unforgettable story that could have been one of today’s headlines. 5 stars.

***