REVIEW: THE COUPLE AT NO.9, BY CLAIRE DOUGLAS

The internationally bestselling author of Do Not Disturb and Just Like the Other Girls delivers a heart-pounding psychological thriller about a couple who inherit what seems to be their dream home, until they make a horrifying discovery—and the danger begins.

The Victims . . .

When pregnant Saffron Cutler moves into 9 Skelton Place with boyfriend Tom and sets about renovations, the last thing she expects is builders uncovering human remains. The remains of two bodies, in fact.

The Investigation . . .

Forensics indicate the bodies have been buried at least thirty years. Saffy has nothing to worry about—until the police launch a murder inquiry and ask to speak to the cottage’s former owner. Her grandmother, Rose.

The Witness . . .

Rose is in a nursing home and Alzheimer’s means her memory is increasingly confused. She can’t help the police, but its’ clear she remembers something.

The Killer . . .

As Rose’s fragmented memories resurface, and the police dig ever deeper, Saf-fy fears she and the cottage are being watched.

The Truth . . .

What happened thirty years ago? Why did no one miss the victims? What part did her grandmother play? And is Saffy now in danger?
 
 
 
an interior journey thoughts

From the very first pages of The Couple at No. 9, the reader is swept up in a tense and intriguing tale that reveals secrets from the past and memories that are elusive.

Saffron is newly pregnant and living in an adorable cottage left to her by her grandmother Rose, a woman who is now in a care home dealing with dementia. Occasional lucid moments are all they can hope for, and now that strange things are happening in the little cottage, Rose’s memories could be very important.

Meanwhile, Saffron’s mum Lorna has come for a visit, and while they are both dealing with Rose’s issues, they are struck by some strange events happening in the garden. Bodies buried! Who are the deceased, and what happened to them? The police are busy asking questions of them all, including Rose, and finding they have more questions than answers.

Just when I thought we were on the right track, the whole plot turns upside down and we discover that some of the characters are not who we thought they were. More characters are introduced, and each of them has a piece of the puzzle to reveal.

I was completely drawn in by it all, and while our characters finally learn how to put all the past secrets into perspective, there is definitely a price to pay. A great twisted tale that kept me glued to the pages. 5 stars.
 
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REVIEW: THE HOTEL NANTUCKET, BY ELIN HILDERBRAND

Fresh off a bad breakup with a longtime boyfriend, Nantucket sweetheart Lizbet Keaton is desperately seeking a second act. When she’s named the new general manager of the Hotel Nantucket, a once Gilded Age gem turned abandoned eyesore, she hopes that her local expertise and charismatic staff can win the favor of their new London billionaire owner, Xavier Darling, as well as that of Shelly Carpenter, the wildly popular Instagram tastemaker who can help put them back on the map. And while the Hotel Nantucket appears to be a blissful paradise, complete with a celebrity chef-run restaurant and an idyllic wellness center, there’s a lot of drama behind closed doors. The staff (and guests) have complicated pasts, and the hotel can’t seem to overcome the bad reputation it earned in 1922 when a tragic fire killed nineteen-year-old chambermaid Grace Hadley. With Grace gleefully haunting the halls, a staff harboring all kinds of secrets, and Lizbet’s own romantic uncertainty, is the Hotel Nantucket destined for success or doom?

Filled with the emotional depth and multiple points of view that characterize Hilderbrand’s novels (The Blue Bistro, Golden Girl) as well as an added dash of Roaring Twenties history, The Hotel Nantucket offers something for everyone in this compelling summer drama.

 

an interior journey thoughts

From the first pages of The Hotel Nantucket, the reader is swept away by the characters, their stories, and the looming presence of the hotel itself. Not to mention the essence of the ghostly Grace.

I was rooting for several of the characters, especially Lisbet and Edie. As I kept turning the pages, I loved discovering the depths of them all. Even the ones I didn’t really like at first, like Allessandra.

The setting was lovely and as the renovations brought the old hotel back to a thing of beauty, I could feel the joy of them all. The inspiration of turning the old place into something special was not to be overlooked.

Romances flourished as well, even for those who were trying to overcome past disappointments. In the final pages, just when we thought we might have lost the beautiful hotel, something happened to turn things around. Five stars.

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REVIEW: SHELL GAME, BY SARA PARETSKY

Acclaimed detective V. I. Warshawski tackles a pair of perplexing cases involving those closest to her in this compelling and timely adventure that centers on some of the most divisive and pressing issues of our time

When V. I Warshawski gets word that her closest friend and mentor Lotty Herschel’s nephew has become a suspect in a murder, the legendary detective will do everything she can to save him. The cops found Felix Herschel’s name and phone number on the unknown victim’s remains, but Felix insists he doesn’t know why.

As Vic digs deeper, she discovers that the dead man was obsessed with Middle Eastern archaeology—the first clue in a bewildering case that leads to a stolen artifact and a shadowy network of international criminals. But the trouble multiplies when Vic’s long-lost niece, Reno, goes missing. A beautiful young woman with a heartbreaking past and a promising future, Reno is harboring a secret that may cost her her life. V.I. can hear the clock ticking on her niece’s safety and is frantic in her efforts to find her.

Vic won’t leave any stone unturned until these very personal cases are cleared—a complex investigation that will entangle the Russian mob, ISIS backers, rogue ICE agents, a nefarious corporation preying on the poor, and a shady network of stock scams and stolen antiquities stretching from Chicago to the East Indies and the Middle East.

In Shell Game, no one can be trusted and nothing is what it seems, except for the indomitable detective and her thirst for justice.

 

 

an interior journey thoughts

When V.I. takes on a case to help her dear friend Lotty, she had no idea that her own life and the welfare of her family would be at risk in Shell Game.

Twists and turns involving mobs, ISIS followers, and the ICE take V.I. down some dangerous pathways, and kept me rapidly turning pages.

So many convoluted moments held me hostage throughout, and even when Vic had figured out much of what her enemies were about, she was almost too far into the danger to change things.

Money, antiquities, and scams kept the danger close at hand, and even with the help of a few good friends, V.I. could not see the end in sight.

I loved every moment of this tale and couldn’t wait to see how Vic would solve the cases. A 4.5 star read.

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REVIEW: THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE, BY RILEY SAGER

Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of bourbon, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple living in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is powerful; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.

One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage isn’t as perfect as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey immediately suspects Tom of foul play. What she doesn’t realize is that there’s more to the story than meets the eye—and that shocking secrets can lurk beneath the most placid of surfaces.

 

an interior journey thoughts

Our primary character is Casey, and her version of the story of The House Across the Lake is told in the present and past tenses.

We feel empathy for her losses, but are concerned about her drinking; we are also worried about her new friend Katherine, who is staying in the house across the lake.

There are other characters who add to the tale, and pique our curiosity about what is really going on.

But before we can learn the full story, a lot more happens, and the twists and turns are stunning. A 5 star read.

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REVIEW: IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS, BY THERESE ANNE FOWLER

Meet the Geller sisters: Beck, Claire, and Sophie, a trio of strong-minded women whose pragmatic, widowed mother, Marti, will be dying soon and taking her secrets with her. Marti has ensured that her modest estate is easy for her family to deal with once she’s gone––including a provision that the family’s summer cottage on Mount Desert Island, Maine, must be sold, the proceeds split equally between the three girls.

Beck, the eldest, is a freelance journalist whose marriage looks more like a sibling bond than a passionate partnership. In fact, her husband Paul is hiding a troubling truth about his love life. For Beck, the Maine cottage has been essential to her secret wish to write a novel––and to remake the terms of her relationship.

Despite her accomplishments as a pediatric cardiologist, Claire, the middle daughter, has always felt like the Geller misfit. Recently divorced, Claire’s secret unrequited love for the wrong man is slowly destroying her, and she’s finding that her expertise on matters of the heart unfortunately doesn’t extend to her own.

Youngest daughter Sophie appears to live an Instagram-ready life, filled with glamorous work and travel, celebrities, fashion, art, and sex. In reality, her existence is a cash-strapped house of cards that may crash at any moment.

Enter C.J. Reynolds, an enigmatic southerner ex-con with his own hidden past, who complicates the situation. All is not what it seems, and everything is about to change.
 

an interior journey thoughts
From the first pages of It All Comes Down To This, we are caught up in the stories of the three sisters, their mother before them, and a wild card of a man whose life could unexpectedly join with theirs.

I felt connected to Beck, whose wishes to live in the island home to write her novel felt like something she should get, but we realize that her hopes might not come to fruition.

Claire’s secret desires seemed unlikely, and Sophie’s seemed selfish and reckless.

By the end of the story, things fall into place…perhaps just as they are meant to be. 4.5 stars.
 
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REVIEW: TRACY FLICK CAN’T WIN, BY TOM PERROTTA

Tracy Flick is a hardworking assistant principal at a public high school in suburban New Jersey. Still ambitious but feeling a little stuck and underappreciated in midlife, Tracy gets a jolt of good news when the longtime principal, Jack Weede, abruptly announces his retirement, creating a rare opportunity for Tracy to ascend to the top job.

Energized by the prospect of her long-overdue promotion, Tracy throws herself into her work with renewed zeal, determined to prove her worth to the students, faculty, and School Board, while also managing her personal life—a ten-year-old daughter, a needy doctor boyfriend, and a burgeoning meditation practice. But nothing ever comes easily to Tracy Flick, no matter how diligent or qualified she happens to be.

Among her many other responsibilities, Tracy is enlisted to serve on the Selection Committee for the brand-new Green Meadow High School Hall of Fame. Her male colleagues’ determination to honor Vito Falcone—a star quarterback of dubious character who had a brief, undistinguished career in the NFL—triggers bad memories for Tracy, and leads her to troubling reflections about the trajectory of her own life and the forces that have left her feeling thwarted and disappointed, unable to fulfill her true potential.

As she broods on the past, Tracy becomes aware of storm clouds brewing in the present. Is she really a shoo-in for the Principal job? Is the Superintendent plotting against her? Why is the School Board President’s wife trying so hard to be her friend? And why can’t she ever get what she deserves?

 

an interior journey thoughts

 

As we watch Tracy Flick try to finally get what she deserves through hard work and staying true to her beliefs, we know already that Tracy Flick Can’t Win. Others seem to get the kudos, while she seems stuck in the past with the failures she can’t forget.

Alternating stories offer a look at the other characters, some of whom are competitors for Tracy…and some are friends.

As we near the big night when the Hall of Fame contenders are announced, we sense that there will be a big moment for Tracy. Something that will get her noticed. I enjoyed this character and rooted for her all along. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: WE’RE ALL DAMAGED, BY MATTHEW NORMAN

Andy Carter was happy. He had a solid job. He ran 5Ks for charity. He was living a nice, safe Midwestern existence. And then his wife left him for a hand-some paramedic down the street.

We’re All Damaged begins after Andy has lost his job, ruined his best friend’s wedding, and moved to New York City, where he lives in a tiny apartment with an angry cat named Jeter that isn’t technically his. But before long he needs to go back to Omaha to say good-bye to his dying grandfather.

Back home, Andy is confronted with his past, which includes his ex, his ex’s new boyfriend, his right-wing talk-radio-host mother, his parents’ crumbling marriage, and his still-angry best friend.

As if these old problems weren’t enough, Andy encounters an entirely new complication: Daisy. She has fifteen tattoos, no job, and her own difficult past. But she claims she is the only person who can help Andy be happy again, if only she weren’t hiding a huge secret that will mess things up even more. Andy Carter needs a second chance at life, and Daisy—and the person Daisy pushes Andy to become—may be his last chance to set things right.

 

an interior journey thoughts

We’re All Damaged is full of past and present moments, and our protagonist Andy is a likeable character who is struggling.

I was annoyed with most of the other characters, especially Andy’s right wing mother who is so judgmental that you just want to leave the room when she speaks.

But then something happens along the way, and we realize that nobody is exactly who they seem to be, and there might be good in all of them. Even Daisy, who seemed like someone to enjoy…and then her big secret is revealed. A four star read.

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REVIEW: NEVER COMING HOME, BY HANNAH MARY MCKINNON

Lucas Forester didn’t hate his wife. Michelle was brilliant, sophisticated and beautiful. Sure, she had extravagant spending habits, that petty attitude, a total disregard for anyone below her status. But she also had a lot to offer. Most notably: wealth that only the one percent could comprehend.

For years, Lucas has been honing a flawless plan to inherit Michelle’s fortune. Unfortunately, it involves taking a hit out on her.

Every track is covered, no trace left behind, and now Lucas plays the grieving husband so well he deserves an award. But when a shocking photo and cryptic note show up on his doorstep, Lucas goes from hunter to prey.

Someone is on to him. And they’re closing in.

 

an interior journey thoughts

Never Coming Home is told from the perspective of Lucas Forester, and his darkness shows through in every detail. As he describes his actions, down to each one he takes, we find ourselves glued to the pages. Even though we might be hoping that he will be caught, we are still eager to learn everything there is to know.

I figured that his plans would go awry at some point, but I was surprised at how everything began to unravel, and stunned at who would be the characters that would bring him down.

His plan seemed so well formulated, so it was very fascinating to see how it all came apart.

I couldn’t stop reading this brilliant five star book.

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REVIEW: ADULT ASSEMBLY REQUIRED, BY ABBI WAXMAN

When Laura Costello moves to Los Angeles, trying to escape an overprotective family and the haunting memories of a terrible accident, she doesn’t expect to be homeless after a week. (She’s pretty sure she didn’t start that fire — right?) She also doesn’t expect to find herself adopted by a rogue bookseller, installed in a lovely but completely illegal boardinghouse, or challenged to save a losing trivia team from ignominy…but that’s what happens. Add a regretful landlady, a gorgeous housemate and an ex-boyfriend determined to put himself back in the running and you’ll see why Laura isn’t really sure she’s cut out for this adulting thing. Luckily for her, her new friends Nina, Polly and Impossibly Handsome Bob aren’t sure either, but maybe if they put their heads (and hearts) together they’ll be able to make it work.
 
 
 

an interior journey thoughts
From the very first page of Adult Assembly Required, we begin to meet characters that we will follow throughout. Bookish, interesting characters, including Laura, a new one who stumbles into the bookstore, drenched by the rain. She is immediately drawn into their circle when Polly offers her dry clothes and a place to stay, since her apartment house just burned down.

A newcomer from Manhattan, Laura isn’t sure she is ready for a city like LA, which seems to be filled with cars everywhere. And Laura’s recent car accident has made her leery.

I liked how an older woman, Maggie, has filled her home with boarders, all of whom seem to become part of her family.

I also enjoyed meeting Nina Hill again, a character from a previous book.

A fascinating character study that made me feel like a part of their social circle, this one definitely earned 5 stars.
 
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REVIEW: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BENNETTS, BY LISA SCOTTOLINE

Jason Bennett is a suburban dad who owns a court-reporting business, but one night, his life takes a horrific turn. He is driving his family home after his daughter’s field hockey game when a pickup truck begins tailgating them, on a dark stretch of road. Suddenly two men jump from the pickup and pull guns on Jason, demanding the car. A horrific flash of violence changes his life forever.

Later that awful night, Jason and his family receive a visit from the FBI. The agents tell them that the carjackers were members of a dangerous drug-trafficking organization—and now Jason and his family are in their crosshairs.

The agents advise the Bennetts to enter the witness protection program right away, and they have no choice but to agree. But WITSEC was designed to protect criminal informants, not law-abiding families. Taken from all they know, trapped in an unfamiliar life, the Bennetts begin to fall apart at the seams. Then Jason learns a shocking truth and realizes that he has to take matters into his own hands.

Sometimes justice is a one-man show.
 
 
 
an interior journey thoughts

What Happened to the Bennetts takes the reader along on a fearsome ride after a tragic event during a carjacking. When the FBI enters the picture, claiming they will protect them from the perpetrators, we begin to suspect that all is not well in the program.

How could the protectors be trusted when so many strange events begin to happen? Jason escapes and takes on the conspirators in his own way, realizing that all of these events originated many years ago, and only he can sort it out.

Will there be a satisfying ending? I couldn’t wait to find out. 4.5 stars.
 
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