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.

ORDINARY PEOPLE FACING EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES — A REVIEW

17414612When the week starts off, Lisa Kallisto is exhausted. Her life is one big juggling act, between work and domestic responsibilities. And just when she thinks it can’t get any worse, her best friend’s thirteen-year-old daughter Lucinda has gone missing. And it seems as though Lisa is to blame, since the girl was supposed to sleep over with her daughter Sally, but there has been some kind of miscommunication.

Between the hatred and fury she sees from her friend Kate and Kate’s sister Alexa, who is brutal on a normal day, Lisa has sunk to an all-time low.

Meanwhile, another girl goes missing, and the search is on. Troutbeck, in Cumbria, is one of those communities where these things do not happen, so everyone is helping out in the search.

The characters include Detective Constable Joanne Aspinell, who is diligent and likeable. We glimpse a bit of her home life, too, which she shares with Mad Jackie, her aunt.

Kate and Guy Riverty, and the unlikeable Alexa and her husband Adam, have offered what appears to be friendship to Joe and Lisa, whose financial circumstances place them in another category from the others. It is natural, then, that Lisa feels the need to ingratiate herself and overly apologize at times. This sets the tone for their relationships.

Interspersed within the story in an alternating perspective is the voice of the perpetrator, who shows us a bit more of what he is about with each entry.

Just What Kind of Mother Are You? is a mystery, a thriller, and a domestic drama that reeled me in from the very first page. The characters were ordinary people that evoked the emotions we feel for people we know. Dislike for the strange Rivertys and for Alexa Willard. These characters can only elicit sympathy from the reader because of what has happened to Lucinda. Otherwise, they are the kinds of characters we hope will get their comeuppance. Snotty, opinionated, and superior.

So when things turn out to be more convoluted than it seems at first glance, I could not stop rapidly turning those pages to arrive at the perfect denouement. A great new author to add to my list. I loved how all of my favorite elements were combined in this story: family drama, mystery, and a thriller ambience that left me with a wonderful feeling of satisfaction. And the settings were drawn so well that I felt as though I were right there, walking the streets of the village. Five stars.

SECRETS, LIES, & A DEVASTATING BETRAYAL — A REVIEW

 

 

When the school explodes into a fiery inferno on that summer day, Grace does what any mother would do. She runs into the building to find the one child who isn’t on the outside. Her seventeen-year-old daughter Jenny, who is upstairs, where she was working as a teaching assistant.

It is in the aftermath that we learn the fates of Jenny, of Grace, and why Adam stopped speaking. And we learn that the fire has been labeled an arson.

Our narrator in this captivating story is Grace, whose body is unconscious and supposedly without cognitive function. She tells the story as if addressing her husband Michael; she refers to him as “you.” She communicates with her unconscious and desperately ill daughter Jenny, and can hear and observe what others are saying and doing. But she cannot speak or communicate with anyone but Jenny.

When the police focus their investigation onto her eight-year-old son Adam because of an anonymous “witness,” she “floats” around to listen in on conversations and try to figure out what happened. She has a mission. To save her daughter Jenny and to find out who started the fire and why, so she can save her son.

What, if anything, does the teacher fired three months before have to do with this disaster? How is Maisie’s husband Donald connected to the school and what is happening? And who else might have been involved?

Through various twists and turns, a bit of misdirection through the lies of witnesses, we finally find ourselves on the tangled pathway to the truth. But just when we think we know what happened, there is still another piece of the story that comes to light.

What will happen to Grace and Jenny? Will there be a happily ever after for them? Will there be an afterwards?

I couldn’t put this book down. I felt so invested in Grace’s story and her quest, and in turn, I disliked many of the characters who each had done something wrong and put others at risk. The lies, the hidden motivations–all combined to reveal the blacks, the whites, and how the two seldom merge. Like separate aspects of the same person, sometimes the good wins out, and other times it does not. A riveting, engaging story, Afterwards: A Novel earned five stars.