REVIEW: THE PERFECT SON, BY LAUREN NORTH

 

When Tess Clarke wakes up in the hospital the day after her son Jamie’s eighth birthday, she’s sure of these things: She’s been stabbed, her son is missing, her brother-in-law and her grief counselor are involved. But no one is listening to her.

After her husband, Mark, died suddenly in a terrible accident a few months earlier, the only thing keeping Tess together is Jamie. As they struggle to make sense of their new life without Mark, they find joy in brief moments of normalcy like walking to school and watching television together. Life is hard without Mark, but Tess has Jamie, and that’s what matters.

But there in the hospital, confused and surrounded by people who won’t listen, Tess’s world falls apart. To save her son, she must piece together what happened between Mark’s death and Jamie’s birthday, but the truth might just be too much for her to bear.

My Thoughts: From the very beginning moments of The Perfect Son, I was drawn in to Tess’s grieving world through her internal monologues centering around her husband Mark and son Jamie. Her fears and her increasing sense of impending danger carry me along to the point where I felt what she was feeling. Her enemies were mine, and I didn’t trust anyone either.

Alternating narratives from Ian, Shelley, and an interviewer at the hospital offer other perspectives, so as the pages turn, we sense a conflict and a questionable reality. Whose version of the truth should we believe?

What happened on Jamie’s birthday? How did Tess end up hospitalized with a stab wound? Would the truth set her free or thrust her into further darkness? I was stunned by the ending and how events played out. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE PERFECT WIFE, BY J P DELANEY

 

Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss.

She is a miracle of science.

But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives—and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?

Beware the man who calls you . . .

THE PERFECT WIFE

 

My Thoughts: At first glance, The Perfect Wife could be one man’s attempt to recreate his dead wife, unable to move on after the loss of her. Since he is adept at technological advances, what Tim does to create his dream wife seems almost sweet.

But it doesn’t take long for the artificial version to fill the reader in on the true motives, and even then, we have persistent questions about what is really going on.

The story unfolds in alternating narratives: Real Abbie vs. Artificial Version. We soon come to empathize with each part of her, turning pages rapidly to learn what she will ultimately decide to do when her very existence is threatened.

At the very end, I was stunned by what happened. Could there be some kind of happiness in whatever chosen existence prevails? Would the Real Abbie please stand up? 5 stars.

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

REVIEW: THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, BY A. J. FINN

 

It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . .

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

My Thoughts: In the beginning of The Woman in the Window, we see only a glimpse of Anna’s life. We learn that she hasn’t left her house in ten months; that she takes a lot of medication and drinks too much; that she watches a lot of black and white movies like Vertigo and Rear Window; and that she meets other agoraphobic people in forums online. Plus, Anna watches the neighbors through her windows.

As we walk through the rooms of Anna’s house along with her, she narrates her passage for us; we can visualize the beauty of it all, with lots of space and lovely rooms. But it is also a very lonely place for someone who is virtually locked within those walls. Mostly what we notice about her home is the absence of the people she loves…and no explanation for their absence.

Slowly her story unfolds, and it will be a long while before we start to learn what happened to her. Flashbacks reveal bits and pieces as we rapidly turn the pages.

Then, as the story continues, we watch through her window with her, and what she sees will change everything for her. Now many people are harassing her; the cops do not believe her; and she is losing her grip more and more.

Even as I knew that she could be every bit as delusional as everyone thinks, another part of me did not really believe that. There were numerous creepy and suspicious characters, and since nothing is quite as it seems, anything is possible. It will be a long while before Anna puts the pieces together. How will she finally discover the truth? What will happen to her in the end? I felt breathless and thoroughly engaged as the intense moments near the end brought the story to a riveting and unexpected conclusion. 5 stars.***

REVIEW: THE GOOD NEIGHBOR, BY A. J. BANNER

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Shadow Cove, Washington, is the kind of town everyone dreams about—quaint streets, lush forests, good neighbors. That’s what Sarah thinks as she settles into life with her new husband, Dr. Johnny McDonald. But all too soon she discovers an undercurrent of deception. And one October evening when Johnny is away, sudden tragedy destroys Sarah’s happiness.

Dazed and stricken with grief, she and Johnny begin to rebuild their shattered lives. As she picks up the pieces of her broken home, Sarah discovers a shocking secret that forces her to doubt everything she thought was true—about her neighbors, her friends, and even her marriage. With each stunning revelation, Sarah must ask herself, Can we ever really know the ones we love?

My Thoughts: From the first moments of sheer terror in the prologue to the slowly unfolding secrets and tragedies of the following pages, The Good Neighbor captured me. The setting in Shadow Cove was the perfect place to start a home and family, and the neighborhood with seemingly friendly people made it just the kind of place Sarah and her husband Johnny had been seeking.

But Sarah, a writer of children’s books, starts to feel a niggling doubt almost immediately. It starts with the next door neighbors, Chad and Monique. Monique’s seductive ways hint at more beneath the surface when she whispers to the men in the room.

Several strange phone calls suggest a stalker, but Sarah also fears that her husband has been unfaithful to her.

Why does the realtor, Eris Coghlan, come across as a little bit too accommodating? What about the flirtatious way that Theresa Minkowski, another neighbor, seems to behave around Johnny? Is Sarah just insecure, or is there more going on?

I was surprised, but not totally stunned when events unfolded as they did, and I had little trouble figuring things out. On the last page, however, another whopper was unleashed, reminding us that secrets just keep coming once the genie is released from the bottle. 4 stars.

ratings-worms-4-cropped***

REVIEW: NEVER ALONE, BY ELIZABETH HAYNES

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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 WOMAN IN CABIN 10”

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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 a great way to spend a Friday!

My featured book today is The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware, a taut and intense read—one that will leave even the most sure-footed reader restlessly uneasy long after the last page is turned.

 

 

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Beginning:  In my dream, the girl was drifting, far, far below the crashing waves and the cries of the gulls in the cold, sunless depths of the North Sea.  Her laughing eyes were white and bloated with salt water; her pale skin was wrinkled; her clothes ripped by jagged rocks and disintegrating into rags.

***

56%:  I took a deep breath.  There was no alternative.  No one could divert the boat except Bullmer, and if I didn’t do this now, I might never get the chance.  Better to speak up, even with an audience, than risk…I pushed the thought away.

***

Synopsis:  In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

***

What do you think?  Does this one grab you?  Do you want to keep reading?

***

REVIEW: WHEN ALL THE GIRLS HAVE GONE, BY JAYNE ANN KRENTZ

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In the opening pages of When All the Girls Have Gone, an unidentified killer waits for revenge. Soon the target appears, Gordon Greenslade, owner of the second largest employer in the town of Loring, Washington. He sees the killer, and apparently it is someone he knows, as he does nothing to ward off what happens. He is shot and killed in what will later be ruled a hunting accident.

Fast forward to the Rainy Creek Gardens Retirement Village, where Charlotte Sawyer is leading a Write Your Life workshop. After several previous jobs in Oregon, she has moved to Seattle, where her stepsister Jocelyn lives, and she is settling in nicely. Her recent devastating break-up with her fiancé, five days before the wedding, could have sent her into a tailspin. But support and a new purpose are helping.

As Charlotte is leaving work for the day, a man approaches and asks about the availability of units, as he is searching for a place for his grandmother. She responds with suggestions, and as she walks away, she looks back, only to find him staring after her. Red flag?

From the eerie first pages to what happens next, the story ratchets up with a murder of one of Jocelyn’s friends, Louise Flint, in what looks like a drug overdose. But Louise’s cousin, Daniel Flint, doesn’t believe that conclusion, and hires Max Cutler, a former profiler turned PI, to look into the matter.

Somehow, Charlotte and Max cross paths, because Louise was a friend of Jocelyn’s…and now Jocelyn, who was supposedly at a tech-free retreat, had received a package at her condo, where Charlotte was watering the plants and checking the mail. It was a package from Louise with a secret message. Charlotte wants to know more about the sender, but discovering her death sets off more alarms.

What is the connection between Jocelyn, Louise, Victoria, Emily, and Madison…all of whom belong to a mysterious investment club that might be a front for something else? Charlotte joins forces with Max to uncover what led to Louise’s death, and the trail takes them both to Loring, Washington, and to some assault cases and a rapist who might have progressed to murder. Will they find the answers before the girls in the club are all dead?

There were so many layers to the story, and whenever the mysteries and secrets seemed close to being uncovered, something else would happen to change up the scenario. How do all of the connections lead back to people in Loring, especially those who might have been bought? People who have secrets too hot to see the light of day?

A page turner that was full of mystery, secrets, some romantic moments, and fleshed out characters that were fascinating and often troubled, one theme stood out: The past has a way of coming forward into the present, and this 5 star read was another very satisfying story from this author.

cropped again 5***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “WHEN ALL THE GIRLS HAVE GONE”

Married to Books-BOOKISH 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 a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s featured book is a recent download from an author I enjoy.  When All the Girls Have Gone, by Jayne Ann Krentz, is a thrilling novel of the deceptions we hide behind, the passions we surrender to, and the lengths we’ll go to for the truth…

 

 

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Beginning:  The killer waited patiently for the target to emerge from the cabin.

There was no great rush, after all.  The waiting allowed time to savor the prospect of revenge.

It was rather pleasant sitting there, propped against a mossy tree, rifle at the ready.  High summer in the Cascades was a very enjoyable time of year.

***

56:  The phone went dead in Max’s hand.  He set it on the old wooden table and looked out the kitchen window.  A light Seattle drizzle was soaking the quiet neighborhood.  He could see the glow of a television set behind the curtains of the little Victorian down the street.

***

Synopsis:  When Charlotte Sawyer is unable to contact her stepsister, Jocelyn, to tell her that one of her closest friends was found dead, she discovers that Jocelyn has vanished.

Beautiful, brilliant—and reckless—Jocelyn has gone off the grid before, but never like this. In a desperate effort to find her, Charlotte joins forces with Max Cutler, a struggling PI who recently moved to Seattle after his previous career as a criminal profiler went down in flames—literally. Burned out, divorced and almost broke, Max needs the job.

After surviving a near-fatal attack, Charlotte and Max turn to Jocelyn’s closest friends, women in a Seattle-based online investment club, for answers. But what they find is chilling…

When her uneasy alliance with Max turns into a full-blown affair, Charlotte has no choice but to trust him with her life. For the shadows of Jocelyn’s past are threatening to consume her—and anyone else who gets in their way…

***

I’m enjoying this one, with the Seattle setting, the mysterious happenings, and the characters that feel real to me.  What do you think?

***

REVIEW: COME & FIND ME, BY HALLIE EPHRON

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What if your passion is for the world online, and the virtual reality you have created means more than the real world?

Such is the case for Diana Highsmith, who worked in the virtual world, hacking, alongside her husband Daniel and his friend Jake…until a climbing accident took Daniel.

Now Diana is continuing to work with Jake as her only partner, to create software to combat hackers and make up for what she, Daniel, and Jake once did.

But her panic attacks, from PTSD, have literally imprisoned her in her home. Her security features alert her to potential intruders, or anyone at all who approaches her home. Isolated and crippled emotionally, Diana is not in a good place when her sister Ashley goes missing.

Finding Ashley will require Diana to take her first brave steps outside her home, into her car, and searching, with the help of another gaming friend.

But what Diana discovers as she moves beyond her home is something so surprising that she might have to change everything she believed about the life she once had.

There was a lot to intrigue me in Come and Find Me, but I did feel a bit lost when the story took us into very technical aspects of the virtual reality. I couldn’t stop reading, though, and at the end, I was stunned by the final reveal. Set in Boston, I enjoyed the characters and the connections between them. 4.0 stars.

ratings worms 4-cropped***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “GIRL ON THE RUN”

Married to Books-BOOKISH 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 feature is a review book from the author:  Girl on the Run, by Daryl Wood Gerber.

 

 

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Beginning:  Chessa Paxton had dreaded the night, even feared it, but now, dressed as Sleeping Beauty, she quivered with anticipation as she moved with the throng toward the entrance to the Boardwalk Casino.  Everything was exciting:  the costumes, the eager chatter, the orchestral music being piped through amplifiers.  The Happily Ever After Ball was going to be, in a word, heady.

***

56:  Marcus paused at an intersection and cupped his hands around his eyes.  Not to block the sun’s glare—the sun was pretty much obliterated by clouds—but to block out distractions.  Dozens of A-framed houses lined the streets.

***

Synopsis:  “Readers will be shocked by this exciting, fast-paced thriller’s twists and turns.” Kirkus Reviews

From nationally bestselling author Daryl Wood Gerber comes a gripping new suspense!

When a fairytale fantasy night becomes a nightmare, Chessa Paxton must run for her life…but will the truth set her free?

Chessa Paxton, an event planner in Lake Tahoe, celebrates a successful night at the Happily Ever After Ball, but her dream quickly becomes a nightmare when she wakes up beside the body of her dead husband. Nauseous and confused, feeling as if she’s been drugged, she can’t explain to the sheriff why her princess costume is bloodied. With her father already a convicted murderer, she feels invisible shackles ratcheting onto her wrists and ankles. She runs! But she can’t escape vivid flashes of memory: a massacre in a meadow; men and women in fairy tale costumes; Snow White’s dead body shielding her from bullets.

Though Chessa is a former costumer and a master of disguise, she quickly learns that hiding while trying to prove herself innocent is the most difficult task imaginable. Especially when the sheriff wants to throw her in jail and the real killer wants to silence her forever.

***

What do you think?  Does this book grab you?  Would you keep reading?

***