REVIEW: THE POISON GARDEN, BY A.J. BANNER

 

Elise Watters seems to have it all—a blissful marriage, a gorgeous Victorian home surrounded by lush gardens, and a dream job running her late mother’s herbal boutique.

But on the eve of her first wedding anniversary, Elise makes a shocking discovery that turns her life upside down and casts doubt on everything she thought she knew—about her marriage, her friends, and even herself. As she treads into dangerous territory, Elise is forced to wonder: Is her whole future at stake? Or is paranoia getting the best of her?

If she is to believe what she sees, Elise has every reason to fear for her life…

 

Elise’s first person voice carried us along on an intense path, and just when we thought we knew the source of the danger, we would be struck by still another shock.

Even her best friend was suspect.

I do enjoy a book in which I do not know who to trust. By the end of The Poison Garden, however, I wasn’t sure I could even believe what ultimately happened.

I couldn’t put it down, however, which is why I’m awarding 4 stars.

***

REVIEW: THREE DAYS MISSING, BY KIMBERLY BELLE

 

When a child goes missing, two mothers’ lives collide in a shocking way in this suspenseful novel from the bestselling author of The Marriage Lie.

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: the call that comes in the middle of the night. When Kat Jenkins awakens to the police on her doorstep, her greatest fear is realized. Her nine-year-old son, Ethan, is missing–vanished from the cabin where he’d been on an overnight class trip. Shocked and distraught, Kat rushes to the campground, but she’s too late; the authorities have returned from their search empty-handed after losing Ethan’s trail in the mountain forest.

Another mother from the school, Stef Huntington, seems like she has it all: money, prominence in the community, a popular son and a loving husband. She hardly knows Kat, except for the vicious gossip that swirls around Kat’s traumatic past. But as the police investigation unfolds, Ethan’s disappearance has earth-shattering consequences for Stef, as her path crosses with Kat. As the two mothers race against the clock, their desperate search for answers reveals how the greatest dangers lie behind the everyday smiles of those they trust the most.

 

My Thoughts: Kat Jenkins has been struggling as a single mom and trying to handle issues with her abusive ex-husband. Her genius son Ethan, 9 years old, is the one bright spot in her life. A school camping trip in the mountains looks like a great getaway for Ethan, so Kat gives permission.

But when Kat gets word from the police that her son is missing from the campsite, her world comes crashing down.

Meanwhile, Atlanta Mayor Sam Huntington and his wife Stef are caught up in the danger when their son Sammy, also on the camping trip, becomes a part of someone’s dangerous plan.

How will Kat and Stef find common ground and work together to find Ethan? What, if anything, will Sammy do to assist? I enjoyed the back and forth between Kat and Stef, as the layered story offered glimpses into the emotional and family conflicts, as well as the intensity that develops within a family in the spotlight.

A page turning book, Three Days Missing,  kept me caught up in the frightening events that would ultimately change all of their lives. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: ANY DAY NOW, BY ROBYN CARR

For Sierra Jones, Sullivan’s Crossing is meant to be a brief stopover. She’s put her troubled past behind her but the path forward isn’t yet clear. A visit with her big brother Cal and his new bride, Maggie, seems to be the best option to help her get back on her feet.

Not wanting to burden or depend on anyone, Sierra is surprised to find the Crossing offers so much more than a place to rest her head. Cal and Maggie welcome her into their busy lives and she quickly finds herself bonding with Sully, the quirky campground owner who is the father figure she’s always wanted. But when her past catches up with her, it’s a special man and an adorable puppy who give her the strength to face the truth and fight for a brighter future. In Sullivan’s Crossing Sierra learns to cherish the family you are given and the family you choose.


My Thoughts: It did not take long to completely immerse myself in Any Day Now, and relate to Sierra Jones, a wonderful, feisty character. A survivor of a dysfunctional family and a troubled past…she brought all these key ingredients to a story that also aroused my empathy and made me root for her.

In Book One, I had already met some characters at Sullivan’s Crossing, a small Colorado town, like Sully, who was a father figure for Sierra and a kind and compassionate mentor for almost everyone.

California (Cal) was the loyal and protective big brother to Sierra, and his newly created family with Maggie, Sully’s neurosurgeon daughter, added a wonderful sister figure to the mix.

Growing up with a mentally ill father taught Cal and Sierra survival skills, although their father was not a violent or abusive man. He just lived with delusions and his own version of reality.

I liked the unique names of the Jones children: California, Sedona, Dakota, and Sierra…interesting quirks that set them apart.

Besides mental health issues, the story dealt with substance abuse, treatment, and recovery, and my work with clients over the years helped me connect to the stories told by those in recovery.

Of course there was a bit of romance. Who wouldn’t fall for the gorgeous firefighter named Conrad (Connie) Boyle? I enjoyed the slow and gradual connection that grew between Sierra and Connie, an appropriate progression for wounded souls.

Just when I was sinking into the daily drama of addiction and recovery, a stunning danger came reeling into Sierra’s life, the detritus of the messy past that Sierra had been fearing, and there were some intense moments that kept me glued to the pages…and then came that predictable yet comforting happy ending. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: NEVER ALONE, BY ELIZABETH HAYNES

never-alone

 

 

 

Sarah Carpenter lives in an isolated farmhouse in North Yorkshire and for the first time, after the death of her husband some years ago and her children, Louis and Kitty, leaving for university, she’s living alone. But she doesn’t consider herself lonely. She has two dogs, a wide network of friends and the support of her best friend, Sophie.

When an old acquaintance, Aiden Beck, needs somewhere to stay for a while, Sarah’s cottage seems ideal; and renewing her relationship with Aiden gives her a reason to smile again. It’s supposed to be temporary, but not everyone is comfortable with the arrangement: her children are wary of his motives, and Will Brewer, an old friend of her son’s, seems to have taken it upon himself to check up on Sarah at every opportunity. Even Sophie has grown remote and distant.

My Thoughts: The beginning pages of Never Alone felt almost cozy and comfy, with Sarah settling into her routines and enjoying the exploration of her old friendship with Aiden. Back in the day, she, Aiden, and Jim, whom she would eventually marry, were pals. There was a competitive edge to the friendship between Jim and Aiden, yet when Sarah chose Jim, Aiden left…and she hadn’t heard from him in years.

Sophie was an interesting character. Charming, warm, and a bit vivacious, yet, for a friend, she seemed to keep a lot of secrets. I was a little wary of her, especially when she started sleeping with Will, a much younger man, despite her very married state.

Aiden and Sophie seemed to have little private chats, too, so what could they be hiding? What does Sarah sense about them? And where does Aiden go all the time, since he has never once told her what he does for a living? How does Sarah react when she makes a discovery about a financial arrangement between Jim and Aiden, and fairly recently? Finally, why does Will keep popping up at Sarah’s farm, blithely walking into the house without knocking?

Alternating narrators take us through the story: Sarah, Aiden, and a third unknown narrator who appears to be watching them all. Suddenly, almost as if the earth has shifted, the intensity heightens and the pace moves rapidly toward a dangerously chilling climax. I figured out who that third narrator was, after being suspicious for a while…and then I held my breath while events came crashing around them all. The stunning finale and the aftermath allowed me to finally breathe again. 5 stars.

cropped-again-5***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE TRUTH-TELLER’S LIE”

BOOKISH FRIDAY LOGO

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What better way to spend a Friday!

Today’s featured book is one from a favorite mystery author:  The Truth Teller’s Lie, by Sophie Hannah, is “a superbly creepy, twisty thriller” (The Times (London)) by the internationally best-selling author of The Other Woman’s House and The Wrong Mother…

 

 

truth teller's resized

 

Beginning:  (2006:  Monday, April 3)

I could explain, if you were here to listen.  I am breaking my promise to you, the only one you ever asked me to make.  I’m sure you remember.  There was nothing casual about your voice when you said, “I want you to promise me something.”

***

56:  At no point had she taken a step back into the house.  She stood right on the threshold.  Behind her, in the hall, Simon could see a light-brown ribbed carpet, a red telephone on a wooden table, a scattering of shoes, trainers and boots.

***

Synopsis:  Naomi Jenkins knows all about secrets: three years ago something so terrible happened to her that she’s never told anyone about it. Now, Naomi has another secret: her relationship with the unhappily married Robert Haworth. When Robert vanishes without explanation, Naomi knows he must have come to harm. But the police are less convinced, particularly when Robert’s wife insists he is not missing. In desperation, Naomi decides that if she can’t persuade the detectives that Robert is in danger, she’ll convince them that he is a danger to others. Naomi knows how to describe the actions of a psychopath; all she needs to do is dig up her own traumatic past.

The second book in Sophie Hannah’s beloved Zailer and Waterhouse series, The Truth-Teller’s Lie is a chillingly smart suspense novel sure to appeal to fans of Tess Gerritsen and Gillian Flynn.

***

What do you think?  I am quite hooked on this series, but it’s been a while since I read one of them.

***

 

REVIEW: THE WRONG MAN, BY KATE WHITE

 

24570453

 

 

It was a beautiful spring season, shortly after Kit Finn’s 35th birthday, so while on a working vacation in Islamorada, Florida, she decides to do something daring.

She starts seeing everything differently, with this new perspective. So when she literally bumps into a handsome man after breakfast in the hotel…and then sees him several more times in random places, she responds when he asks her to dinner.

Their dinner turns into a brief sexual encounter, so when she heads home afterwards, she anticipates nothing more. But he calls and arranges to meet her for dinner back in New York.

He said his name was Matt Healy and that he had just sold his tech company. He is pondering what to do next.

Back in New York and ready to resume her life as an interior decorator with her 71 year old business partner, Baby Meadow, she is full of ideas for a cottage she is doing over for a client named Avery Howe.

But she does show up at the hotel for the prearranged dinner date, excited and full of the possibilities. Imagine her surprise to be greeted at the door by a stranger. A stranger who says his name is Matt Healy.

From that point on, everything about The Wrong Man: A Novel of Suspense felt like a dizzying whirl through a topsy-turvy world, as Kit discovers more and more unsettling facts about the man she thought she had met, a man whom the real Matt Healy says had stolen his identity.

Could everything after that be a twisted lie, as more and more layers unfold to reveal deeper secrets and betrayals? The police are involved now, so when a man is struck down by a car in Florida, matching the description of Kit’s stranger, she goes there to identify him. Only to see that the man is actually the real Matt Healy.

Who was the man in Florida? Why is he now in New York, contacting Kit with his own version of events? Is his true identity Garrett Kelman, and can he be trusted?

A case of insider trading in a company called Ithaca darkens the murky waters…and somehow Kit’s involvement grows, with more murders and unexpected details that keep flooding in. To say more would be to reveal too much. Suffice it to say that before you turn the last page, you will have suspected every character at one point or another, and Kit will be on a race to find the truth and stay alive. 5 stars.

REVIEW: AS NIGHT FALLS, BY JENNY MILCHMAN

91Sh7Y5PPTL._SL1500_

 

 

Sandy and Ben Tremont are living an idyllic life in the Adirondacks in a hilltop mansion, with their 15-year-old daughter Ivy.  And yes, having a teenaged daughter is a challenge for Sandy, since they seem to be at odds more often than not.

 
But not everything is as wonderful as it appears.  Sandy is keeping a big secret about her past, one that is about to resurrect itself and bring havoc upon them all.

 
Miles away, two convicts have just escaped from prison, and they have a destination in mind.  They are headed for that hilltop with evil in mind.  And a plan.

 
Will it be a plan for vengeance?  Or is something more going on?  Nick Muncey sees himself as a winner, and for most of his life, he got everything he wanted.  He had to learn new games in prison, but now, for his escape partner, he has chosen big and simple Harlan, who listens and does what Nick wants.

 
When the two of them arrive at the Tremont home, it is not immediately apparent why Nick has chosen this place, but soon we are able to put together the connections.

 
As Night Falls is a suspenseful and frightening tale of one night that turns disastrous, and a past that formed the man who would bring danger into all their lives.

 
The story flows back and forth between the present and the 1970s and 1980s, when Barbara Muncey was raising her son Nick…and a daughter she ignored.  Nick was allowed to create havoc over and over until the day that he finally ended up in prison.  But his days of plotting and scheming are not over, and terror grips the Tremont family.

 
The characters were three-dimensional and felt very real, especially the frightening ones. Ben was the least formed character, and Ivy was somewhat stereotypical with her teenage sulkiness and whining…and then, suddenly, she became a daughter to be proud of.

 
To avoid spoilers, I will only say that the intensity does not slacken throughout, although there were some slow and lagging parts in the middle; perhaps the lagging was a way of intensifying the danger, but it didn’t really work that way for me.  Overall, however, the story was gripping, and one that I would recommend for those who love suspense thrillers.  4.5 stars.