REVIEW: DEAD TO HER, BY SARAH PINBOROUGH

Marriage can be murder…

SOMETHING OLD

Marcie’s affair with Jason Maddox catapulted her into the world of the elite.
Old money, old ties, old secrets. Marcie may have married into this world—
but she’ll never be part of it.

SOMETHING NEW

Then Jason’s boss brings back a new wife from his trip to London.
Young, attractive, reckless—nobody can take their eyes off Keisha.
Including Marcie’s husband.

SOMETHING YOU CAN NEVER, EVER UNDO…

Some people would kill for the life Marcie has—what will she do to keep it?

 

Marcie is trying to fit into her new life in Savannah without letting the past keep her captive.

Keisha wants the money she would have if her wealthy and brutish husband dies.

Jason longs to take over the company from his boss.

All of these people have secrets, and the darkness that keeps them from being truly good will surely dictate what happens next in their lives.

Dead to Her unfolds from the perspectives of them all, and we are left trying to guess who has suddenly turned a corner into true darkness. Just when I thought I had it figured out, the author surprised me in the end.

An enjoyable read, but it seemed to take forever to read it as I sank further into the darkness with the characters. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL, BY MICHAEL ROBOTHAM

 

A girl is discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Half-starved and filthy, she won’t tell anyone her name, or her age, or where she came from. Maybe she is twelve, maybe fifteen. She doesn’t appear in any missing persons file, and her DNA can’t be matched to an identity. Six years later, still unidentified, she is living in a secure children’s home with a new name, Evie Cormac. When she initiates a court case demanding the right to be released as an adult, forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven must determine if Evie is ready to go free. But she is unlike anyone he’s ever met—fascinating and dangerous in equal measure. Evie knows when someone is lying, and no one around her is telling the truth.

Meanwhile, Cyrus is called in to investigate the shocking murder of a high school figure-skating champion, Jodie Sheehan, who dies on a lonely footpath close to her home. Pretty and popular, Jodie is portrayed by everyone as the ultimate girl-next-door, but as Cyrus peels back the layers, a secret life emerges—one that Evie Cormac, the girl with no past, knows something about.. A man haunted by his own tragic history, Cyrus is caught between the two cases—one girl who needs saving and another who needs justice. What price will he pay for the truth?

 

In Good Girl, Bad Girl, we are pulled into a dual story line immediately. A young girl has been murdered, and Cyrus Haven is tasked with helping the police solve the case. Meanwhile, in a high-security children’s home in Nottingham, a resident social worker requests Cyrus’s help in working with a young girl dubbed Evie Cormac, whose identity has never been uncovered. She was found under mysterious circumstances. Was she held captive, or was there more going on with the man assumed to be her captor?

Alternating narrators tell the tale, and as more details emerge, we try to solve the mystery of who murdered the figure skater named Jodie Sheehan. The most obvious perpetrator begins to seem less likely as more secrets and lies soon add to the growing list of questions about who did what to whom.

Evie’s connection to Cyrus leads to a bond that will keep us intrigued throughout. I kept rapidly turning pages until the final revelations, while rooting for both Cyrus and Evie. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE LYING ROOM, BY NICCI FRENCH

 

It should have been just a mid-life fling. A guilty indiscretion that Neve Connolly could have weathered. An escape from twenty years of routine marriage to her overworked husband, and from her increasingly distant children. But when Neve pays a morning-after visit to her lover, Saul, and finds him brutally murdered, their pied-à-terre still heady with her perfume, all the lies she has so painstakingly stitched together threaten to unravel.

After scrubbing clean every trace of her existence from Saul’s life—and death—Neve believes she can return to normal, shaken but intact. But she can’t get out of her head the one tormenting question: what was she forgetting?

An investigation into the slaying could provide the answer. It’s brought Detective Chief Inspector Alastair Hitching, and Neve’s worst fears, to her door. But with every new lie, every new misdirection to save herself, Neve descends further into the darkness of her betrayal—and into more danger than she ever imagined. Because Hitching isn’t the only one watching Neve. So is a determined killer who’s about to make the next terrifying move in a deadly affair….

 

From the very first page of The Lying Room, we watch every move Neve Connolly makes, keeping track of her actions, her lies, and what she must do to make sense of a murder…and to figure out who is responsible.

With the police on her heels at every turn and with a growing list of friends and acquaintances that she must not trust, Neve and her troubled daughter Mabel play against time, juggling events and hoping to save themselves.

All along, we also follow Neve’s efforts to get through the routines of home, work, and caring for her children, staying clear of anything that will bring the police to her door. It was hard to figure out who might be setting up Neve, and I had plenty of people to mistrust along the way. Red herrings, misdirection, and troublesome moments from the past kept me on guard as I tried to sort it all out. A riveting tale that kept me fully engaged…and then suddenly, it all made sense. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: MY EX-BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING, BY WENDY WAX

 

Prized and stored away for safekeeping, the timeless ivory wedding dress, with its scooped neck and cleverly fitted bodice, sits gently folded in its box, whispering of Happily Ever Afters. To Kendra, Brianna, and Lauren it’s a reminder of what could have been, the promise of a fairy tale, and a friendship torn apart. But as Kendra knows firsthand: it wasn’t the dress’s fault.

Once closer than sisters, Lauren and Bree have grown up and grown apart, allowing broken promises and unfulfilled dreams to destroy their friendship. A successful author, Lauren returns home to the Outer Banks, fiancé in tow, to claim the dress she never thought she’d wear. While Bree, a bookstore owner, grapples with the realities of life after you marry the handsome prince. As the former best friends wrestle with their uncertain futures, they are both certain of one thing: some betrayals can never be forgiven.

Now on the eve of her daughter Lauren’s wedding, Kendra struggles with a secret she’s kept for far too long. And vows to make sure the dress will finally bring Lauren and Bree back together—knowing they’ll need each other to survive the coming storm.

My Thoughts: When successful novelist Lauren James accepts boyfriend Spencer’s proposal and begins to think about going home to the Outer Banks for the wedding ceremony, she has some mixed feelings. Her former best friend Bree is not someone she really wants to see again. As she thinks back on their falling out all those years ago, she still feels the pain.

Back home, Bree hears the news and realizes that she is not so eager to reconnect either. After all, Lauren has gone on to become a best-selling author, a dream they both shared. But Bree is still working on her one and only manuscript after fifteen years.

Meanwhile, Lauren’s mother Kendra has just realized that a forty-year-old secret she has kept could be coming out soon. How should she reveal it in a way that will do the least damage?

Our alternating narrators in My Ex-Best Friend’s Wedding offer just what we need to know in the most titillating way possible, and I couldn’t help rapidly reading, wondering how the secrets and the past damages would be brought to light. A 5 star read.

***

REVIEW: BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE, BY REA FREY

 

Single mother Lee has the daily routine down to a science: shower in six minutes. Cut food into perfect squares. Never leave her on-the-spectrum son Mason in someone else’s care. She’ll do anything-anything—to keep his carefully constructed world from falling apart. Do anything to keep him safe.

But when her best friend Grace convinces her she needs a small break from motherhood to re-charge her batteries, Lee gives in to a weekend trip. Surely a long weekend away from home won’t hurt?

Noah, Mason’s handsome, bright, charismatic tutor—the first man in ages Lee’s even noticed—is more than happy to stay with him.

Forty-eight hours later, someone is dead.

But not all is as it seems. Noah may be more than who he claims to be. Grace has a secret—one that will destroy Lee. Lee has secrets of her own that she will do anything to keep hidden. And what will happen to Mason, as the dominoes begin to fall and the past comes to light?

Perhaps it’s no mystery someone is gone after all…

 

My Thoughts: What began as a story about friendship and the world of single parenting would morph into a suspense thriller with so many layers of deceit that it would take rapidly turning those pages to find out more. As we delve further into Because You’re Mine we learn snippets of those long-held secrets, but we won’t realize the extent of them until the very end.

What is the story behinds Mason’s paternity? What happened to each woman’s family members that would change the course of their lives? How did Noah fit into each of their lives, past and present?

Each revelation begins to offer a peek of those lives in the past, as well as the present, but it would only be in the final pages that we truly understand the depths of the duplicity. 5 stars.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND, BY HEATHER GUDENKAUF

 

For twelve-year-old Cora Landry and her friends Violet and Jordyn, it was supposed to be an ordinary sleepover—movies and Ouija and talking about boys. But when they decide to sneak out to go to the abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, little do they know that their innocent games will have dangerous consequences.

Later that night, Cora Landry is discovered on the tracks, bloody and clinging to life, her friends nowhere to be found. Soon their small rural town is thrust into a maelstrom. Who would want to hurt a young girl like Cora—and why? In an investigation that leaves no stone unturned, everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted—not even those closest to Cora.

My Thoughts: Narrated via text messages, journal entries, and therapist notes, Before She Was Found probes beneath the surface into the disturbed psyches of three middle school girls in a rural Iowa town.

We learn about the secret and mysterious world of girls whose rivalries and fantasies unfold against a backdrop of an ordinary setting that turns out to be anything but ordinary.

A dark website binds them together, just as an urban legend tears them apart. Who can discover what has really happened? Just when I thought I had it all figured out, I was almost underwhelmed by what had actually happened…and a little disappointed. However, the book held me in its grip until the end, making the journey worthwhile. 4.5 stars.

***

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.

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.***

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.

***

REVIEW: THE LIAR’S CHILD, BY CARLA BUCKLEY

 

On the outskirts of North Carolina’s Outer Banks sits the Paradise, an apartment complex where renters never stay long enough to call the place “home”—and neighbors are seldom neighborly. It’s ideal for Sara Lennox, who moved there to escape a complicated past—and even her name—and rebuild a new life for herself under the radar. But Sara cannot help but notice the family next door, especially twelve-year-old Cassie and five-year-old Boon. She hears rumors and whispers of a recent tragedy slowly tearing them apart.

When a raging storm threatens then slams the coastal community, Sara makes a quick, bold decision: Rescue Cassie and Boon from the storm and their broken home—without telling a soul. But this seemingly noble act is not without consequences. Some lethal.

My Thoughts: The characters we meet in The Liar’s Child seemingly have no connection to one another, beginning with Hank, the retired cop who is a watcher. He fancies himself a protector, having suffered unimaginable losses.

Cassie, a preteen girl living in a dreary apartment, protects herself with defiance, dark clothes, and heavy makeup. She acts as if her little brother Boon is an annoyance, but she is his fierce guardian. The two of them know early on that they can’t really trust people.

Whit, father to the kids, has a dark secret. But he is trying to hold everything together for his kids.

Then there is Sara…or whoever she really is. She is in a witness program, but she is marking the days until she can escape the FBI scrutiny. We learn through her internal monologues that lying is a big part of her persona, and she is good at it. But it’s a lonely life.

So…when the hurricane strikes and she puts her own destiny at risk to rescue Cassie and Boon, she learns that sometimes even liars can find their inner nurturer.

I loved watching them all struggle: Sara, Cassie, Boon, Whit, and even Hank. At the end, the story jumped ahead in time, and we caught a glimpse of a promising future. 5 stars.

***