REVIEW: DON’T LOOK FOR ME, BY WENDY WALKER

One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life.

She doesn’t want to be found.

Or at least, that’s the story.

The car abandoned miles from home.

The note found at a nearby hotel.

The shattered family that couldn’t be put back together.

They called it a “walk away.”

It happens all the time.

Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over.

But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?

 

 

On Day One, we see Molly Clarke driving in the rain, thinking about the sadness of her life: her losses, her remaining two children who seem to wish she weren’t there at all, and the emptiness of her marriage.

She has just left her son Evan’s game at school and watched him look away from her, dismiss her, pretend she wasn’t there.

Driving toward home, she keeps going, as if she has no destiny. And then she runs out of gas on a stretch of road. She sees a gas station 30 feet away, but as she walks toward it, she realizes it is boarded up. Empty. Like her life.

When a truck drives by with what she thinks is a man and his daughter, and they pull over, offering her a ride, she doesn’t really hesitate…

What then begins is a nightmare.

Will Molly ever go home again? The man takes her to a house instead of the police station where she wanted to go. He makes empty promises about phoning for help…and she is soon a prisoner.

Meanwhile, back home, Molly’s daughter Nicole is searching for her. She doesn’t believe that her mom just walked away, and too many pieces of the story don’t make sense.

We watch the tale unfold between Nicole and Molly, back and forth in alternating narratives.

Who is the man holding Molly hostage? Why are the police and other residents of the small town of Hastings where Molly’s car and supposed “note” were found telling tales that don’t make sense? Is it a conspiracy? Or is it even more dark and evil?

I kept trying to figure out who the players were and how they connected to Molly and Nicole, so as the answers began to come, I was breathless with anticipation. Don’t Look for Me was a brilliant 5 star read.

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

***

REVIEW: THE END OF HER, BY SHARI LAPENA

 

A long-ago accident—and a visitor from out of the blue. . .

Stephanie and Patrick are adjusting to life with their colicky twin girls. The babies are a handful, but even as Stephanie struggles with the disorientation of sleep deprivation, there’s one thing she’s sure of: she has all she ever wanted.

Then Erica, a woman from Patrick’s past, appears and makes a disturbing accusation. Patrick had always said his first wife’s death was an accident, but now Erica claims it was murder.

Patrick insists he’s innocent, that this is nothing but a blackmail attempt. Still, Erica knows things about Patrick—things that make Stephanie begin to question her husband. Stephanie isn’t sure what, or who, to believe. As Stephanie’s trust in Patrick begins to falter, Patrick stands to lose everything. Is Patrick telling the truth—is Erica the persuasive liar Patrick says she is? Or has Stephanie made a terrible mistake?

How will it end?

Who is telling the truth in The End of Her? Or will there be plenty of liars to go around?

Just when I thought I knew who to believe, another twist would come out of nowhere, and I would be stunned again.

One thing for sure, I knew I hated Erica. But is Patrick truly innocent? And what about Stephanie? She seems so sweet, and as if she could do no wrong. But are there unexpected dark depths to her?

The story takes us to the past while also plunging forward into the future to show what lies ahead for these characters.

Enough said. Saying more would spoil the tale, so suffice it to say, your head will be spinning by the time this story concludes. 5 brilliant stars.

***

REVIEW: AFTER ANNA, BY ALEX LAKE

A girl is missing. Five years old, taken from outside her school. She has vanished, traceless.

The police are at a loss; her parents are beyond grief. Their daughter is lost forever, perhaps dead, perhaps enslaved.

But the biggest mystery is yet to come: one week after she was abducted, their daughter is returned.

She has no memory of where she has been. And this, for her mother, is just the beginning of the nightmare.

 

The parents in After Anna are Brian and Julia, and their marriage is on the outs for unrelated issues. The plan was to separate, but then Anna was taken. As soon as Anna is returned, Julia has only a few rare moments of peace before the worst of the nightmare begins.

Throughout the time that Anna has been missing, vitriol was spewed on Julia from the press in an unending onslaught. Who is leaking information to them, and why are they twisting everything?

Meanwhile, the perpetrator carries on his/her internal monologue, advising the reader of the future plan to keep the target pointed on the family, especially Julia.

On the other hand, why is Edna, Brian’s mother, who has never liked Julia, manipulating everything and turning Brian against Julia? She is a very unpleasant character and is most likely up to no good.

As the intensity ratchets up, the reader is offered a close-up view of the insanity of our perpetrator’s mind. I had the identity figured out before the end, but a glimpse into the twisted mind of the evil person was so intense I could not stop reading. I was biting my nails, and kept following the actions until the anti-climactic conclusion. 5 stars

***

REVIEW: BELIEVE ME, BY J.P. DELANEY

 

A struggling actor, a Brit in America without a green card, Claire needs work and money to survive. Then she gets both. But nothing like she expected.

Claire agrees to become a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. Hired to entrap straying husbands, she must catch them on tape with their seductive propositions.

The rules? Never hit on the mark directly. Make it clear you’re available, but he has to proposition you, not the other way around. The firm is after evidence, not coercion. The innocent have nothing to hide.

Then the game changes.

When the wife of one of Claire’s targets is violently murdered, the cops are sure the husband is to blame. Desperate to catch him before he kills again, they enlist Claire to lure him into a confession.

Claire can do this. She’s brilliant at assuming a voice and an identity. For a woman who’s mastered the art of manipulation, how difficult could it be to tempt a killer into a trap?

But who is the decoy . . . and who is the prey?

 

My Thoughts: I loved the twisty elements of Believe Me that always kept me a little off-balance. Claire’s first person narrative made me care about her and about her perspective. I felt myself rooting for her all along, especially when she found herself in many precarious situations, when those who were supposed to be on her side didn’t believe her version of events.

Claire’s immigration status intrigued me, as it especially resonates in this day and age. One’s life can be upended at a moment’s notice, so treading carefully is what one must do, and persons in authority can use that fear as leverage.

Trust games are part of the interactions for these characters, and we are thrown into the quandary of not knowing who to believe or what to believe.

Who killed Stella? Was it Patrick, or Claire, or someone else? And how does the dark website Necropolis play into the drama? When Patrick writes a play based on the Baudelaire book he loves, Claire is cast and sees the opportunity to finally get her green card. But is the play just an opportunity or another trap that will thrust her into more danger?

As we switch back and forth, asking ourselves what is truly real and what is Claire performing “in character,” we are still stunned by how everything plays out. An incredibly brilliant 5 star read.

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

REVIEW: AFTER ANNA, BY LISA SCOTTOLINE


 

Dr. Noah Alderman, a widower and single father, has remarried a wonderful woman, Maggie Ippolitti, and for the first time in a long time, he and his young son are happy. Despite her longing for the daughter she hasn’t seen since she was a baby, Maggie is happy too, and she’s even more overjoyed when she unexpectedly gets another chance to be a mother to the child she thought she’d lost forever, her only daughter Anna. 

Maggie and Noah know that having Anna around will change their lives, but they would never have guessed that everything would go wrong, and so quickly. Anna turns out to be a gorgeous 17-year-old who balks at living under their rules, though Maggie, ecstatic to have her daughter back, ignores the red flags that hint at the trouble brewing in a once-perfect marriage and home. 

Events take a heartbreaking turn when Anna is murdered and Noah is accused and tried for the heinous crime. Maggie must face not only the devastation of losing her daughter, but the realization that Anna’s murder may have been at the hands of a husband she loves. In the wake of this tragedy, new information drives Maggie to search for the truth, leading her to discover something darker than she could have ever imagined. 


My Thoughts: Alternating narratives take the reader back and forth in time through the riveting pages of After Anna.

How could their lives have turned upside down so quickly? And how could they have seen any of it coming? Is Maggie in denial about her husband…or about her daughter? Has Noah made some foolish choices that have come back to haunt him?

As I rapidly turned the pages, I came to my own interpretation of events, some of which I took away from years of working with dysfunctional families and with people who have completely opposing versions of the truth. In this case, there are at least two sides to the truth…but then there can also be an unexpected player in this family tragedy.

From the beginning, I did not like Anna, but understood how Maggie could be fooled by her. After all, she was suffering from the guilt of having lost her child in infancy. Now she has to make up for their losses, which means that she has blinders on and misses all the red flags.

Noah did not do himself any favors when he failed to share his own qualms…but then again, a man in this scenario is often unaware of the manipulations going on around him.

Just when we thought all was settled, albeit not very happily, we are thrown off course by some startling revelations that changed everything we thought we knew. As a result, we enjoyed a very satisfactory conclusion. 5 stars.


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

REVIEW: NOT THAT I COULD TELL, BY JESSICA STRAWSER

 

When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce—and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her—and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions—especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.

 

My Thoughts: A story that could have been ripped from the headlines, Not That I Could Tell was a reminder that secrets, lies, and possible violence could be hiding behind any of the doors in a friendly neighborhood.

From the police and the media presence to the suspicious behavior of several normally sociable neighbors, there is a sense hovering in the neighborhood that nothing will ever be the same in the quiet small town of Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Izzy is new to the neighborhood, and smarting from her own feelings of betrayal when her best friend and potential love interest marries her younger sister. Clara, who hosted the party and who has her own past connections to domestic violence, is suddenly hypervigilant. Then there is Paul, the almost ex-husband of Kristin, moving back into the house after his wife has gone missing…and acting sad and victimized by it all. But what is really behind his behavior? What had happened between them? How would the neighbors learn to cope with events?

As the story winds down and with the police unable to close the case, a few things happen unexpectedly that bring out the final secrets and reveal everything that was unknown. The story was interesting, with some characters I enjoyed…but I figured out much of what was happening long before the end. However, there were some missing pieces that I enjoyed watching unfold. 4.5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

FROM THE INTERIOR: WAITING ON “MOST WANTED”

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Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday event, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

Every week, we gather around the blogosphere and search out the upcoming book releases, sharing our thoughts and blurbs.  Today I am eagerly awaiting a book from an author I have loved over the years, Lisa Scottoline.  Her newest upcoming release is Most Wanted, another searing, powerful blockbuster novel that explores hot-button issues within the framework of an intricately plotted thriller. Release Date – 4/12/16.

 

 

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When a woman and her husband, desperate for a baby, find themselves unable to conceive, they decide to take further steps. Since it is the husband who is infertile, the heroine decides to use a donor. And all seems to be well. Three months pass and she is happily pregnant. But a shocking revelation occurs when she discovers that a man arrested for a series of brutal murders is her donor – the biological father of the child she is carrying. Delving deeper to uncover the truth, the heroine must face her worst fears, and confront a terrifying truth.

***

Oh, I love the sound of this one!  This author never fails to engage me with her books, whether they are mysteries, thrillers, or books rife with family issues.  And sometimes she combines all of these elements in one stunning book.

***

QUOTES FROM THE INTERIOR: “THE BLACK WIDOW”

Friday from the Interior

 

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 I decided to change things up and present this post on my An Interior Journey site.

My featured book is one I downloaded last week, and haven’t started reading yet.  It is from an author I’ve been enjoying lately:  The Black Widow is a chilling new thriller from New York Times bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub, one woman looking for love online is entangled in a killer’s terrifying scheme . . .

 

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Beginning:  (Prologue)

“Some things,” Carmen used to say, “just don’t feel right until the sun goes down.”

It was true.

Cocktails…

Bedtime stories…

Turning on the television…

Putting on pajamas…

All much better—more natural—after nightfall, regardless of the hour or season.

***

56:  June heat shimmers in waves on the pavement this evening as Gabriela steps out of her building’s lobby.  It’s not even summer yet, according to the calendar, but already the city is in the throes of its first official heat wave.

***

Blurb:  In the moonlight, shovelfuls of earth fall on a wooden crate at the bottom of a deep pit. Soon the hole will be filled and covered over with leaves, erasing all trace of the victim below, waking to the horror of being buried alive . . .

Newly divorced Gaby Duran isn’t really expecting to find her soul mate on a dating site like InTune. She just needs a distraction from pining over her ex-husband, Ben, and the happy marriage they once had. And she’s wise enough to know that online, the truth doesn’t always match the profile. Almost everyone lies a little—or a lot.

But Gaby quickly discovers there is much more at stake than her lonely heart. Local singles are going missing after making online connections. And a predator is searching again for the perfect match. One who will fulfill every twisted desire . . . or die trying.

***

Do these quotes make you want to keep reading?  What do you think?  I am eager to read more…I love a good thriller.

***

REVIEW: THE FIRST WIFE, BY ERICA SPINDLER

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Bailey Browne and Logan Abbott met in the Grand Cayman Islands, and after a whirlwind romance, returned to Wholesome, Louisiana, to the Abbott Farms, the family compound, with staff and family residents living in cabins and cottages on the property.

Three months later, Bailey is lying in a hospital bed after some kind of accident she cannot recall, and a diagnosis of Traumatic Brain Injury, with retrograde amnesia.

What happened to her, and why is she so afraid? Why does everything about her life and her new family make her feel vulnerable? And why is Logan’s sister Raine so hostile?

It doesn’t help that the Police Chief, Billy Ray Williams, has been hammering away at her, as if her husband has done something to her. He has an obsessive theory that Logan is a serial killer, and alludes to a host of missing women, including Logan’s first wife True.

What, if anything, does the death of Henry Rodriguez have to do with what has happened? And why does Bailey see herself covered in blood?

The First Wife reveals multi-layered subplots and possible perpetrators, and while Bailey is even suspicious of Logan for a while, too many other possibilities occur to her…and then, just as I thought I had it figured out, there was a final surprise reveal. Definitely a page turner and full of characters with secrets, making most of them suspect. 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: THAT NIGHT, BY CHEVY STEVENS

51wQoo1hUTL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Arrested and convicted of her younger sister Nicole’s murder when she was only eighteen, Toni Murphy spends the next fifteen years in prison. Her boyfriend Ryan was also convicted.

But they are innocent. And the rage and fear Toni suffers is intensified by the challenges she faces in prison. But will she find even more challenges once she is released?

The primary story is set in Campbell River, on Vancouver Island. That Night begins as Toni is being released from Rockland Penitentiary, to a halfway house, and alternately flashes backward and forward, revealing the many layers to this story. Like the bullying that made up a huge part of her high school experience, from a group of girls headed by Shauna McKinney. The fact that her parents saw her as a trouble-maker and her sister as the good girl. That her sister Nicole was slowly being drawn into the very circle of enemies that had tormented Toni….

Toni is our first person narrator, and as we learn more from her perspective, it is easy to be enraged by what she suffered and by the intensity of emotions she has experienced. All of which must be kept under wraps in order to survive inside. As the story unfolds, in its back and forth fashion, I had a hard time setting it down. From one minute to the next, I couldn’t wait to see what would happen. One would think that life would be better for Toni outside, but she discovers that those who are out to get her are still there, and ratcheting things up.

What will her enemies do next to ruin her life? Why are the “mean girls,” now adults, still intent on destroying her? What are the secrets they are keeping? And what was the truth about Nicole’s secret life during that last year?

A highly intense and emotional read, I felt myself pulled into the midst of the drama, completely engaged with the characters. Toni was a character that I enjoyed, despite her tough girl persona. I was rooting for her from the beginning. And in the end, it seemed as though justice would never come…but then a surprising revelation brought satisfaction. Five stars.