REVIEW: SECLUDED CABIN SLEEPS SIX, BY LISA UNGER

What could be more restful than a weekend getaway with family and friends? An isolated luxury cabin in the woods, spectacular views, a hot tub and a personal chef. Hannah’s generous brother found the listing online. The reviews are stellar. It’ll be three couples on this trip with good food, good company and lots of R & R.

But the dreamy weekend is about to turn into a nightmare.

A deadly storm is brewing. The rental host seems just a little too present. The personal chef reveals that their beautiful house has a spine-tingling history. And the friends have their own complicated past, with secrets that run blood deep.

How well does Hannah know her brother, her own husband? Can she trust her best friend? Meanwhile, someone is determined to ruin the weekend, looking to exact a payback for deeds long buried. Who is the stranger among them?
 
 
an interior journey thoughts


Alternating narrators tell the story of Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six. Friends are looking forward to time away from work and some irritating events in their lives, each of them sharing bits of their stories. Then there are narrators not part of the group, unknown to the reader until later in the tale. Their bits and pieces reminded me of horror in the making, not sure of their roles in events unfolding in that cabin. Are they connected in any way to the friends in the cabin?

Even the six friends have secrets that slowly begin to show us more about the nightmare that is coming their way.

What will we learn about them all as we await the answers? How do the Origins DNA kits they got the previous Christmas reveal more information? And will the storm unleashing turn everything upside down in their lives? As we near the end, things begin to click into place and hope is on the horizon. 5 stars.
 
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REVIEW: THE HOUSEKEEPER, BY JOY FIELDING

In the end, I have only myself to blame. I’m the one who let her in.

Jodi Bishop knows success. She’s the breadwinner, a top-notch real estate agent. Her husband, Harrison . . . not so much. Once, he had big dreams. But now, he’s a middling writer who resents his wife’s success.

Jodi’s father, Vic, now in his late seventies and retired, is a very controlling man. His wife, Audrey, was herself no shrinking violet. But things changed when Audrey developed Parkinson’s ten years ago and Vic retired to devote himself to her care. But while still reasonably spry and rakishly handsome, Vic is worn down by his wife’s deteriorating condition.

Exhausted from trying to balance her career, her family, and her parents’ needs, Jodi starts interviewing housekeepers to help care for Audrey and Vic. She settles on Elyse Woodley, an energetic and attractive widow in her early sixties, who seems perfect for the job. While Vic is initially resistant, he soon warms to Elyse’s sunny personality and engaging ways.

And Jodi is pleased to have an ally, someone she can talk to and occasionally even confide in. Until . . .

She shuts Jodi out. And Audrey’s condition worsens—rapidly. Who is this woman suddenly wearing her mother’s jewelry? What is she after? And how far will she go to get it?

 

an interior journey thoughts

Almost from the very beginning of The Housekeeper, red flags begin to appear, and we are reminded of that saying: “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

As I rapidly turned the pages, wondering what would happen next, I knew that nothing good would come down this pathway. And along the way, other twists appeared to reveal more and more.

I was breathless by the end but satisfied by how it all unfolded. Despite those who did not survive, of course. A 5 star read for me.

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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 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: 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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REVIEW: THE OTHER FAMILY, BY WENDY CORSI STAUB

The watcher sees who you are…and knows what you did.

It’s the perfect home for the perfect family: pretty Nora Howell, her handsome husband, their two teenage daughters, and lovable dog. As California transplants making a fresh start in Brooklyn, they expected to live in a shoebox, but the brownstone has a huge kitchen, lots of light, and a backyard. The catch: its previous residents were victims of a grisly triple homicide that remains unsolved.

Soon, peculiar things begin happening. The pug is nosing around like a bloodhound. Nora unearths a long-hidden rusty box in the flowerbed. Oldest daughter Stacey, obsessed with the family murdered in their house, pokes into the bloody past and becomes convinced that a stranger is watching the house. Watching them.

She’s right. But one of the Howells will recognize his face. Because one of them has a secret that will blindside the others with a truth that lies shockingly close to home—and to this one’s terrifying history.

 

an interior journey thoughts

Discovering details about The Other Family fills the pages of this book, and as our narrators alternate between the past and the present, we are poised for secrets and darkness coming out that could ruin the fresh start that our characters are hoping for.

But Nora already has a clue about that past, as her own secrets are part of it. We don’t know just how she is connected to the previous residents, but we know that she is keeping everything close to the vest.

Meanwhile, her two daughters are struggling to adjust to their new lives in Brooklyn, even though they are not really aware of what is happening around them. Until little tidbits slip out from the neighbors who have also had a connection to the neighborhood in the past.

Bits and pieces are revealed along the way until finally we know what Nora’s connection is…just before she has to revise the past a little to make it possible to keep living in the present. A 5 star read.

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REVIEW: THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME, BY LAURA DAVE

Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers—Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss, as a US marshal and federal agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.

Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they’re also building a new future—one neither of them could have anticipated.

With its breakneck pacing, dizzying plot twists, and evocative family drama The Last Thing He Told Me is a riveting mystery, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn.
 
 
an interior journey thoughts


As I burrowed into The Last Thing He Told Me, I knew I was in for a treat. The kind of read that will be unforgettable, but which will also fill me with emotions that add to the hold it will have on me.

We are immediately drawn into the mystery of who Owen really is, and what he may or may not have done. Can Hannah dig deep enough to figure it all out? Will she be able to keep Bailey safe?

The writing was captivating, and I loved how I was drawn into the characters and settings, seeing them as if they were unfolding on a big screen. I had a sense of the Sausalito house boat, the places in Austin, Texas, and even a brief glimpse or two of the Venice Canals in LA. I knew I would want to view the story as a film!

By the end, we are caught up in the pull of losses and how there would be no easy answers. I didn’t want to say goodbye to the story. 5 stars.
 
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REVIEW: THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED, BY LISA JEWELL

On a beautiful summer night in a charming English suburb, a young woman and her boyfriend disappear after partying at the massive country estate of a new college friend.

One year later, a writer moves into a cottage on the edge of the woods that border the same estate. Known locally as the Dark Place, the dense forest is the writer’s favorite area for long walks and it’s on one such walk that she stumbles upon a mysterious note that simply reads, “DIG HERE.”

Could this be a clue towards what has happened to the missing young couple? And what exactly is buried in this haunted ground?

 

an interior journey thoughts

From the very first page of The Night She Disappeared, I was caught up in the mysterious events, narrated from the past and the present, offering bits and pieces of information with each step forward and backward. I especially liked learning how Kim and Sophie teamed up to find clues from social media sites.

What really happened on that summer evening when Talullah and Zach went missing? Did a group of friends who partied that night know more than they were sharing?

As I kept turning the pages, I had some thoughts about what might have happened, but in the end, I found the resolution to be unexpected.

I enjoyed figuring out the characters and their behavior, and definitely had mixed feelings about some of them. I loved the conclusion, which satisfactorily brought good things for some of them. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR, BY NICCI FRENCH

Who is more dangerous? An enemy, a friend, or a lover?

When Bonnie Graham arrives at her boyfriend’s apartment in London, she is horrified to discover a dead body in a pool of blood on the floor. But she doesn’t call the police. Bonnie hides the corpse and then carefully wipes away any evidence she was ever there.

Bonnie is a music teacher who spent a long, hot summer in London rehearsing with a band to play at a friend’s wedding. It was supposed to be fun, but the band members find the complicated knots of their friendships—some old, some new—unraveling as the days themselves unwind. What was meant to be a summer of happiness, love, and music turns deadly as lovers betray one another, passions turn murderous, and friendship itself becomes a crime.

Everyone tells lies. But is anyone prepared to tell the truth to uncover a murderer?

 

an interior journey thoughts

From the beginning of The Other Side of the Door, we are swept back and forth in time: “Before” narratives followed by “After.” We only slowly come to realize what has happened and how a dead body ended up in Liza’s flat.

I thought I had it figured out, but soon realized with each piece of information provided in the flashbacks that I had been wrong.

But who did kill the man found on the floor? For a while, we didn’t even know who that was. I liked the unveiling of moments, which piqued my interest and kept me reading. Then, with each new revelation, everything is seemingly tipped upside down once again. By the end, nothing seems sorted, but life goes on. 5 stars.

REVIEW: NOT A HAPPY FAMILY, BY SHARI LAPENA

Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there, and Fred and Sheila Merton certainly are rich. But even all their money can’t protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mertons are brutally murdered after a fraught Easter dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their vindictive father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of the siblings is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did someone snap after that dreadful evening? Or did another person appear later that night with the worst of intentions? That must be what happened. After all, if one of the family were capable of something as gruesome as this, you’d know.

 

Not a Happy Family drew me in immediately, with the vicious murder and the motives that could point to several different people, but the target seems to stay on the backs of the three adult children.

Between them, there are alibis that may or may not be valid, but an absence of real evidence to point to any one of them keeps the detectives circling the potential perpetrators. Soon the target shifts to others, as more and more people who had reason to want the Mertons dead show up, several of whom are about to inherit some amount of money from them.

In the end, I was stunned as the details of what actually happened fell into place, and I then realized that the answer was no big surprise. Definitely a five star read.

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