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: EVELYN, AFTER, BY VICTORIA HELEN STONE

Evelyn Tester is sleepwalking through her suburban life—until a late-night phone call startles her awake. Her husband, a prestigious psychiatrist, has been in an accident. And he isn’t alone.

Suddenly Evelyn’s world isn’t as tidy as she thought. And in the midst of it all is Juliette, not only her husband’s secret lover but also his patient. If news of the affair were to get out, it would ruin more than just Evelyn’s marriage. Although it’s a bitter pill for Evelyn to swallow, protecting her family means staying silent—even if, as she begins to discover, the night of the accident has consequences far more dangerous than the unmasking of an affair.

But the more Evelyn learns about Juliette’s picture-perfect life—complete with a handsome, unsuspecting husband—the more she yearns for revenge…and satisfaction. Her growing obsession fuels her rage, burning away her complacency. What will be left of her after it flames out?
 
 
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In alternating narratives between the past and present, we learn about our protagonist’s life in Evelyn, After, and begin to question her choices, even as we can understand them.

Why has Evelyn decided to act out of vengeance? What does she discover about herself in the process? What will her choices ultimately lead to as she follows this journey?

As I journeyed with Evelyn through her story, I wondered what she would do next. Would she find the answers she seeks? Will she finally earn the love she is missing?

I enjoyed Evelyn’s story, especially the ending, which brought peace, finally. 4.5 stars.
 
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REVIEW: 214 PALMER STREET, BY KAREN MCQUESTION

No one was ever supposed to see her…

When Maggie sees the beautiful Venetian blinds moving in the Caldwells’ front window, she freezes. Her favorite neighbors Cady and Josh are away, so who is in their house?

The pretty young woman who answers the door tells a convincing story. She’s Sarah. The house-sitter. Just here for a month. An old friend of Cady’s who needed a place to stay. She’s pleasant and warm, and Maggie wanders back to her house thinking she might have made a new friend. Yet she can’t help but wonder why Cady never mentioned Sarah.

What Maggie doesn’t know is that on the other side of the door, Sarah is starting to panic. No one was meant to see her at 214 Palmer Street…
 
 
 
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In alternating timelines, Sarah Aden is on a mission to uncover the secrets of 214 Palmer Street. The house where her husband Kirk grew up, and where something terrible happened one night when he and his friends were teenagers, is the root of all the secrets she must discover.

She is masquerading as a house sitter for the Caldwells, who now live in that house, and they are meant to be gone for a month.

But others are also determined to keep those secrets, like Gavin, Clarice, and Kirk. What happened back then in that bomb shelter, where the kids hung out, almost as if it were a playhouse? After the terrible events of that night, Kirk’s parents covered up the bomb shelter, and everything was hidden. But what happened to Jeremy, their other friend? And how could she find out?

Rapidly turning pages, I couldn’t wait to find the answers, and as the narrators took us back and forth in time, we tried anticipating what would happen next, but nothing could prepare us for the journey to the truth. 4.5 star
 
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REVIEW: INSOMNIA, BY SARAH PINBOROUGH

IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT, MADNESS LIES . . .

Emma can’t sleep.

CHECK THE WINDOWS.

It’s been like this since her big 4-0 started getting closer.

LOCK THE DOORS.

Her mother stopped sleeping just before her own fortieth birthday.
She went mad and did the unthinkable because of it.

LOOK IN ON THE CHILDREN.

Is that what’s happening to Emma?

WHY CAN’T SHE SLEEP?

 

 

an interior journey thoughts

From the very first page of Insomnia, I was captivated by the character Emma and how her sleeplessness impacted everything in her life. Just when we begin to realize that other forces are at play, though, I was already hooked and couldn’t believe in anything but her innocence as I rooted for her.

The obsessive-compulsive actions triggered by Emma’s sleeplessness felt like a very real thing that could be more than the insomnia. The history of her mother’s mental illness was a factor in it all. But I couldn’t imagine her as responsible for everything else happening.

Phoebe was a character I couldn’t believe in. She felt like a liar and someone playing games with her family. Was there more to the story? And Robert, the husband, was another one I couldn’t rely on. What was his story?

When characters seem so untrustworthy, we begin to blame them for everything. And then, out of nowhere, comes a character who seems kind and empathetic…and just when we start to trust her, she turns out to be the worst of them all.

A great five star read that I rushed through in order to find the answers.

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REVIEW: THE SUMMER PLACE, BY JENNIFER WEINER

When her twenty-two-year-old stepdaughter announces her engagement to her pandemic boyfriend, Sarah Danhauser is shocked. But the wheels are in motion. Headstrong Ruby has already set a date (just three months away!) and spoken to her beloved safta, Sarah’s mother Veronica, about having the wedding at the family’s beach house in Cape Cod. Sarah might be worried, but Veronica is thrilled to be bringing the family together one last time before putting the big house on the market.

But the road to a wedding day usually comes with a few bumps. Ruby has always known exactly what she wants, but as the wedding date approaches, she finds herself grappling with the wounds left by the mother who walked out when she was a baby. Veronica ends up facing unexpected news, thanks to her meddling sister, and must revisit the choices she made long ago, when she was a bestselling novelist with a different life. Sarah’s twin brother, Sam, is recovering from a terrible loss, and confronting big questions about who he is—questions he hopes to resolve during his stay on the Cape. Sarah’s husband, Eli, who’s been inexplicably distant during the pandemic, confronts the consequences of a long ago lapse from his typical good-guy behavior. And Sarah, frustrated by her husband, concerned about her stepdaughter, and worn out by challenges of life during quarantine, faces the alluring reappearance of someone from her past and a life that could have been.

When the wedding day arrives, lovers are revealed as their true selves, misunderstandings take on a life of their own, and secrets come to light. There are confrontations and revelations that will touch each member of the extended family, ensuring that nothing will ever be the same.

 

an interior journey thoughts

The Summer Place is the centerpiece of this captivating family story that carries the reader along as we get to know each of the characters. There are so many layers with them all, and we gradually come to love them, not wanting to say goodbye to any of them.

The Pandemic is also a big part of this story that goes beyond its Cape Cod setting, resonating with those of us who are still feeling the sweep of it.

I felt a connection to each of the characters, but my favorite was probably Sarah. She felt like someone I could enjoy as a friend or even a daughter.

I loved how the author brought us into the whole family with all of their quirks and issues, and how we could root for each of them, from Veronica the matriarch to the younger members of the family, like Sam’s stepson Connor.

When I finally set the book down, I wanted to start over with it again! Definitely a five-star read.

My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

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REVIEW: THE GOLDEN COUPLE, BY GREER HENDRICKS & SARAH PEKKANEN

Wealthy Washington suburbanites Marissa and Matthew Bishop seem to have it all—until Marissa is unfaithful. Beneath their veneer of perfection is a relationship riven by work and a lack of intimacy. She wants to repair things for the sake of their eight-year-old son and because she loves her husband. Enter Avery Chambers.

Avery is a therapist who lost her professional license. Still, it doesn’t stop her from counseling those in crisis, though they have to adhere to her unorthodox methods. And the Bishops are desperate.

When they glide through Avery’s door and Marissa reveals her infidelity, all three are set on a collision course. Because the biggest secrets in the room are still hidden, and it’s no longer simply a marriage that’s in danger.

an interior journey thoughts

 

Others saw them as The Golden Couple, but their new and unconventional therapist knows there is much more to their story. She has an unusual method of working on their issues, taking ten steps toward uncovering the secrets and deep flaws.

Our story is revealed through alternating narrators, and we learn more about them as we work through the steps. Even Avery has secrets, and hers are just as stunning as the others.

We might think we know everything as we discover more about each character, but as the past is revealed, nothing we believed about them is true. Danger lurks behind every corner, and as the intensity ratchets up, we are holding our breath. A brilliant 5 star read.

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REVIEW: FIND ME, BY ALAFAIR BURKE

Some pasts won’t stay forgotten . . .

She calls herself Hope Miller, but she has no idea who she actually is. Fifteen years ago, she was found in a small New Jersey town thrown from an over-turned vehicle, with no clue to her identity. Doctors assumed her amnesia was a temporary side effect of her injuries, but she never regained her memory. Hope eventually started a new life with a new name in a new town that welcomed her, yet always wondered what she may have left behind—or been running from. Now, she’s leaving New Jersey to start over once again.

Manhattan defense lawyer Lindsay Kelly, Hope’s best friend and the one who found her after the accident, understands why Hope wants a new beginning. But she worries how her friend will fare in her new East Hampton home, far away from everything familiar. Lindsay’s worst fears are confirmed when she discovers Hope has vanished without a trace—the only lead a drop of blood found where she was last seen. Even more ominously, the blood matches a DNA sample with a connection to a notorious Kansas murderer.

With nowhere else to turn, Lindsay calls NYPD homicide detective Ellie Hatcher, the daughter of the cop who dedicated his life to hunting the Kansas killer. Ellie has always believed there was more to the story of her father’s death twenty years earlier—and she now fears that Hope’s recent disappearance could be related.

In pursuit of answers, the women search for the truth beneath long-buried secrets. And when their searches converge, what they find will upend everything they’ve ever known.
 
 
 
an interior journey thoughts

In the beginning of Find Me, we meet a young woman called Hope who is suffering from amnesia after a car accident. Her best friend, who is almost her caretaker, is Lindsay. After several years living in a small town as Hope Miller, she decides she wants to start over and be more independent. At this point, everything changes.

Does Hope disappear or is she taken? Has someone from her past turned up to do her harm? When Lindsay searches for her, even with the help of law enforcement, everything seems to go awry.

There were so many interesting characters who played a role in the story, trying to find answers and solve the mysteries. But as we draw near the end, everything seemingly turns upside down and nothing adds up. A story that was hard to put down. 4.5 stars.
 
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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.
 
 
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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: A SIMPLE FAVOR, BY DARCEY BELL

She’s your best friend.

She knows all your secrets.

That’s why she’s so dangerous.

A single mother’s life is turned upside down when her best friend vanishes in this chilling debut thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time.

But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her dis-appearance is over.

Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems.
 
 
 
 
an interior journey thoughts

It starts out as a simple friendship between two mommies whose children are best friends. At some point, the mommy blogger Stephanie agrees to A Simple Favor for her friend Emily, taking care of her son while she goes away for one night.

When it turns into a disappearance, Stephanie and Emily’s husband Sean begin helping each other with childcare…and then become close friends. It all morphs into a live-in relationship between them.

Meanwhile, in alternating narratives, we learn more about both Emily and Stephanie, and later we get a closer look at Sean.

Just when we think we have figured it all out, more darkness is revealed. By the end, I didn’t like any of the characters and concluded that they were all nefarious and not to be trusted. And definitely nothing about any of them is simple. 4.5
 
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REVIEW: THE LAST HOUSE ON THE STREET, BY DIANE CHAMBERLAIN

A community’s past sins rise to the surface in New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain’s The Last House on the Street when two women, a generation apart, find themselves bound by tragedy and an unsolved, decades-old mystery.

1965

Growing up in the well-to-do town of Round Hill, North Carolina, Ellie Hockley was raised to be a certain type of proper Southern lady. Enrolled in college and all but engaged to a bank manager, Ellie isn’t as committed to her expected future as her family believes. She’s chosen to spend her summer break as a volunteer helping to register black voters. But as Ellie follows her ideals fighting for the civil rights of the marginalized, her scandalized parents scorn her efforts, and her neighbors reveal their prejudices. And when she loses her heart to a fellow volunteer, Ellie discovers the frightening true nature of the people living in Round Hill.

2010

Architect Kayla Carter and her husband designed a beautiful house for themselves in Round Hill’s new development, Shadow Ridge Estates. It was supposed to be a home where they could raise their three-year-old daughter and grow old together. Instead, it’s the place where Kayla’s husband died in an accident—a fact known to a mysterious woman who warns Kayla against moving in. The woods and lake behind the property are reputed to be haunted, and the new home has been targeted by vandals leaving threatening notes. And Kayla’s neighbor Ellie Hockley is harboring long buried secrets about the dark history of the land where her house was built.

Two women. Two stories. Both on a collision course with the truth—no matter what that truth may bring to light—in Diane Chamberlain’s riveting, powerful novel about the search for justice.

 

an interior journey thoughts

In alternating timelines, we follow the lives and loves of two women in a North Carolina small town. From the sixties to the present day, they each pursue their dreams while struggling with issues that bind them to each other even though they do not even know one another. Until later.

I felt a connection to them each, having grown up in the sixties and fought for civil rights back then, and again in the present day with the country divided along similar lines all these years later.

Who is the strange woman that Kayla meets in the present, someone who is out to terrorize her in her house at the end of the street? Does meeting Ellie in the present day offer clues to what is going on? What connects both Ellie and Kayla to the activities of the Klan?

The Last House on the Street was a captivating story that glued me to the pages and earned five stars.

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