REVIEW: ARE YOU AWAKE?, BY CLAIRE MCGOWAN

With two young children, Mary hasn’t slept in what feels like years. For his part, Tim never feels safe enough to sleep. And so one hot, exhausting night, the two strangers meet while seeking solace in a nearby park. There, they witness something horrific: a violent attack in the window of a neighbouring house.

Bonded by what they’ve seen, Tim and Mary are desperate to find answers. And when they see news reports of a missing woman who was last seen walking alone not far from them, the pair are convinced it’s her they saw being attacked—no matter what the police say.

But with her marriage under strain and the police on their tail, Mary begins to doubt her own mind…and Tim’s. And as the pair are drawn into a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, the culprit appears to be even closer to home than they thought. Have they got it all wrong, or is something even more sinister going on?

an interior journey thoughts

 

From the very beginning of Are You Awake?, I was drawn into the lives of two primary characters, Mary and Tim, who have trouble sleeping at night and find themselves noticing odd happenings in the neighborhood. Like sleuths, they follow the clues, try to involve the police, but with no results, and eventually are in danger for their lives.

Just when we think we have it figured out, there are more twists and turns, and the drama surrounding them all intensifies. Finally in the heat of extreme danger, answers come. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE GIRLFRIEND, BY K.L. SLATER

My husband’s dead. She’s at my door. She owns my home…

The doorbell rings, just days after my beloved husband’s sudden death. I don’t recognise the woman on our doorstep, with her buttery blonde highlights, a diamond bracelet identical to my own and a bouncing baby boy in her arms.

As I show her inside, I notice her eyes grow wide as she takes in our spacious hallway, and the big squashy sofas that we all used to pile on. She glances at the silver-framed family photos and my little daughter hiding behind my skirts.

She looks at me, her blue eyes serious. ‘I’m sorry’ she says. ‘I know this will be hard to hear. But I am your husband’s girlfriend. And this is his son.’

My world implodes. And then she tells me that she owns our home – and that she’s not going anywhere…

an interior journey thoughts

Jennifer’s nightmare life begins when her husband dies in a tragic accident, but the true disastrous events happen when The Girlfriend appears on her doorstep. Sara arrives with her baby boy Rory, who she claims is Cole’s son, and tells an unbelievable story about how she and Cole were planning a life together, and that the beautiful home is all hers. That she loaned money to him and everything is in her name.

Her proposal is that they both live in the house together, and if they can manage that, she won’t kick Jennifer and her kids out.

If Jennifer thought everything was bad before, living with this woman who has her own agenda will rip her life apart in unexpected ways. Jennifer tries to strike back and does her own research. Can she find an answer? Or will Sara win? 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: BIG SHOT, BY JULIE MULHERN

Ellison and Anarchy Jones are looking forward to a relaxing weekend in the country. Time spent skeet shooting, fishing, and horse-back riding with friends. Hours spent swaying in a shady hammock without friends.

But when Ellison walks into a murder scene, her friends become suspects. And each of them has an excellent motive for murder.

Can Ellison sift through the lies and unmask a killer, or will a weekend away cost her everything she holds dear?
 
 
 
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Just when we think Ellison and Anarchy will enjoy some time away with friends, Ellison stumbles upon first one body and then another. Finding bodies seems to be her thing.

Naturally she has to help navigate the investigation with her husband, even after he is laid up with a snake bite. While he recovers, she plows ahead anyway.

What does she discover as she pursues questioning and observing? Big Shot is another intense thriller that earned 5 stars for me.

***

REVIEW: MAD HONEY, BY JODI PICOULT & JENNIFER FINNEY BOYLAN

Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising their beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined that she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in and taking over her father’s beekeeping business.

Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start.

And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet at times, she wonders if she can trust him completely. . . .

Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in Ash, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her.

Mad Honey is a riveting novel of suspense, an unforgettable love story, and a moving and powerful exploration of the secrets we keep and the risks we take in order to become ourselves.

 

an interior journey thoughts

From the first pages of Mad Honey, I was captivated. The story pulled me in with its insights about family issues that are so emotional, from single parenting to young love that goes wrong. Told alternately between the main characters, we are swept back and forth in time until finally we are on tenterhooks about what will ultimately happen to each of them. We know there are aspects of the story that will not end well, but we keep pushing along, hoping for something that will remind us of how these events reflect real life in all of its disturbing elements and yet which show us characters and their strengths as they cope with it all.

I won’t say more so as not to spoil the unfolding for readers. Instead, I want to share the pleasure I found in the strengths even as I teared up at the sadness of those left behind. A five star read for me.

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REVIEW: THE FALL GIRL, BY MARCIA CLARK

When Charlie Blair left Chicago behind—and her old life as Lauren Claybourne—for a gig in the Santa Cruz DA’s office, things were supposed to be easier. Or at least nothing that a couple of Xanax and a tumbler of vodka couldn’t handle. The plan had been working, until the murder of a local bail bondsman Shelly Hansen.

Enter: hot-shot prosecutor Erika Lorman, she of the stellar record and unfailing touch with juries, a veritable legend in her own right. Fresh off the prosecution of celebrity chef Blake Steers, the newest resident of California’s penitentiary system and perhaps its most high profile, she’s thrust back into action alongside her new co-chair from the windy city and ready to do anything to put criminals behind bars.

But as the fevered search for answers intensifies and the hunt for a killer continues, secrets from the past threaten to undo not just the case—but Erika and Charlie, too. Expertly plotted and relentlessly paced, The Fall Girl will keep readers guessing until the very end.

 

an interior journey thoughts

In alternating narratives, The Fall Girl reveals the past and present of two attorneys whose lives have been a struggle at various points in time. Charlie Blair is trying to stay away from an ex-boyfriend and goes to the extreme by changing her identity and moving across the country.

Meanwhile, Erika is a hot-shot prosecutor, but has her own past and present issues to address.

I couldn’t stop turning the pages as the two women work side by side on a case that could turn out to upend both of their lives. A five star read.

***

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: 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.

***

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.

***

 

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.

***

REVIEW: NINE LIVES, BY PETER SWANSON

Nine strangers receive a list with their names on it in the mail. Nothing else, just a list of names on a single sheet of paper. None of the nine people know or have ever met the others on the list. They dismiss it as junk mail, a fluke—until very, very bad things begin happening to people on the list.

First, a well-liked old man is drowned on a beach in the small town of Kennewick, Maine. Then, a father is shot in the back while running through his quiet neighborhood in suburban Massachusetts. A frightening pattern is emerging, but what do these nine people have in common? Their professions range from oncology nurse to aspiring actor, and they’re located all over the country. So why are they all on the list, and who sent it?

FBI agent Jessica Winslow, who is on the list herself, is determined to find out. Could there be some dark secret that binds them all together? Or is this the work of a murderous madman? As the mysterious sender stalks these nine strangers, they find themselves constantly looking over their shoulders, wondering who will be crossed off next…

 

an interior journey thoughts

Alternating narrators tell the story in Nine Lives, and the reader is immediately caught up in the mystery of what connections, if any, are between the people on the list. It is obvious that those on the list are being targeted in some way, and soon they begin to realize that there is something very dire ahead for them.

Those on the list range from two older men, and several others, both men and women, in their late thirties. They seem to have nothing at all in common, not even where they live.

As police and FBI agents embark on a quest to find answers, I bit my nails and tried to guess what might be happening next. Would any of those on the list survive? Would we ever know the answers? I loved where the story took us, and in the end, there were answers, coming from an unexpected place. And a somewhat happy ending for someone. 5 stars.

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