REVIEW: SOMEONE KNOWS, BY LISA SCOTTOLINE

 

Allie Garvey is heading home to the funeral of a childhood friend. Allie is not only grief-stricken, she’s full of dread. Because going home means seeing the other two people with whom she shares an unbearable secret.

Twenty years earlier, a horrific incident shattered the lives of five teenagers, including Allie. Drinking and partying in the woods, they played a dangerous prank that went tragically wrong, turning deadly. The teenagers kept what happened a secret, believing that getting caught would be the worst thing that could happen. But time has taught Allie otherwise. Not getting caught was far worse.

Allie has been haunted for two decades by what she and the others did, and by the fact that she never told a soul. The dark secret has eaten away at her, distancing her from everyone she loves, including her husband. Because she wasn’t punished by the law, Allie has punished herself, and it’s a life sentence.

Now, Allie stands on the precipice of losing everything. She’s ready for a reckoning, determined to learn how the prank went so horribly wrong. She digs to unearth the truth, but reaches a shocking conclusion that she never saw coming–and neither will the reader.

 

My Thoughts: From multiple perspectives, the reader follows the lives of teens and adults, all connected by the housing development in which they lived.

Someone Knows begins when a young thirty-something woman named Allie Garvey shows up to attend the funeral of a friend from high school, a sad reminder of tragic events from twenty years earlier.

The tragedy had been exacerbated by dark secrets, and the lives of the characters have been broken by the events of that time. Could any of them have known how those events would inform their lives forever? But what none of them would realize, even in the present, was that there were even darker secrets that would be coming back in unexpected ways.

During that long-ago summer, we watched as each teenager handled the events, both before and after. Allie was the girl on the outside looking in, but she felt a connection to David, who seemed to accept her. Sasha was a bully, but her gorgeous exterior kept the boys focused on her, wanting to please her. Would the actions they took have occurred without that component? Did Sasha egg them on? And how did Julian’s feelings about another boy in the group lead to how it all played out?

Now, years later, Allie has come to a decision. But will her plans lead to even more danger? The riveting story intensified with each page I turned, and shocking surprises came from every direction. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: BEFORE & AGAIN, BY BARBARA DELINSKY

 

Mackenzie Cooper took her eyes off the road for just a moment but the resulting collision was enough to rob her not only of her beloved daughter but ultimately of her marriage, family, and friends—and thanks to the nonstop media coverage, even her privacy. Now she lives in Vermont under the name Maggie Reid, in a small house with her cats and dog. She’s thankful for the new friends she’s made—though she can’t risk telling them too much. And she takes satisfaction in working as a makeup artist at the luxurious local spa, helping clients hide the visible outward signs of their weariness, illnesses, and injuries. Covering up scars is a skill she has mastered.

Her only goal is to stay under the radar and make it through her remaining probation. But she isn’t the only one in this peaceful town with secrets. When a friend’s teenage son is thrust into the national spotlight, accused of hacking a powerful man’s Twitter account, Maggie is torn between pulling away and protecting herself—or stepping into the glare to be at their side. As the stunning truth behind their case is slowly revealed, Maggie’s own carefully constructed story begins to unravel as well. She knows all too well that what we need from each other in this difficult world is comfort. But to provide it, sometimes we need to travel far outside our comfort zones.

 

My Thoughts: An emotional tale of family, loss, and starting over, Before and Again captured me from the very first pages.

Maggie, our protagonist, reveals much about what her new life looks like through her first person narrative, but it also gives us glimpses of what she has lost.

How will she deal with the newest scandal in her adopted town? Can she stay under the radar, or will her own back story burst through her carefully constructed mask? As each piece of her past pushes its way through, she gradually begins to realize that sometimes one has to accept the past and all of its pain in order to truly start over.

I loved the setting of her new life, and could feel the warmth and coziness she had created. I also began to realize, along with Maggie, that parts of the past could be woven into the new canvas she has drawn. As we watch the drama unfold, we realize that the life we had before can be remembered with a sense of healing, and when we begin again, we can bring forward the lessons we have learned. A beautiful story that earned 5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: HOW TO WALK AWAY, BY KATHERINE CENTER

 

Margaret Jacobsen is just about to step into the bright future she’s worked for so hard and so long: a new dream job, a fiancé she adores, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in a brief, tumultuous moment.

In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Maggie must confront the unthinkable. First there is her fiancé, Chip, who wallows in self-pity while simultaneously expecting to be forgiven. Then, there’s her sister Kit, who shows up after pulling a three-year vanishing act. Finally, there’s Ian, her physical therapist, the one the nurses said was too tough for her. Ian, who won’t let her give in to her pity, and who sees her like no one has seen her before. Sometimes the last thing you want is the one thing you need. Sometimes we all need someone to catch us when we fall. And sometimes love can find us in the least likely place we would ever expect.

 

My Thoughts: A captivating tale of a tragedy that changes everything in a life, and leads our MC to a realization that the people who should have stood by are wallowing in their own self-pity. When I stopped feeling angry on her behalf, I settled down to watch how she struggled to move forward, and then began to truly connect with herself and who she could become.

Will Margaret come to realize that the life she wanted was not at all what she needed? Can she discover new ways to find strength and confidence?

How To Walk Away kept me glued to the pages, loving the unexpected moments and hating a few of the characters.

Margaret’s mother, Linda, was one of those annoying characters, full of bossy suggestions that turned out to be her way of controlling the uncontrollable. Over time, she was able to find another way to overcome the need to control everything.

I liked how Ian, the physical therapist who seemed so frustrating at first, turned out to be the most inspirational character of all. But then…just when we are rooting for something specific to happen, we realize that it probably won’t. Until we are surprised by the unexpected.

Margaret’s sister Kit had disappeared three years ago after a major fight with their mother. Unpacking those events would bring eye-opening changes to the family.

Could one create a mosaic out of a life that has been shattered? By moving forward and not looking back, one can put together something hopeful out of courageous moments…these are the inspirational themes I took away from this captivating book. 5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: FAULTLINES, BY BARBARA TAYLOR SISSEL

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It’s the phone call every parent dreads: in the middle of the night, Sandy Cline learns that her twenty-year-old son, Jordan, has been in a car accident. Her nephew, Travis, was also in the car, along with Travis’s girlfriend. All three are alive—but barely. The car was smashed against a tree along a remote and winding road, beautiful but deadly, in their rural Texas Hill Country town.

In the wake of the car crash, the close-knit family is tested like never before. Jenna, Travis’s mother, blames Jordan—as well as her sister, Sandy—after reports surface that Jordan had been driving. As the young adults struggle to survive, tension between their parents escalates. But when trust is broken and a shocking family secret is exposed, it creates a perfect storm of harrowing consequences. Rumors in the small town spread like wildfire. When details of the accident are questioned, Sandy and Jenna wonder if their family has been destroyed beyond repair.

 

My Thoughts: From the first moments, I immersed myself in the story of a family suffering one of the worst events that can happen to parents: a child in danger, possibly because of something reckless one of them did. Set in the Texas hill country, in a small town named Wyatt, we are offered a glimpse of the people, the setting, and how families cope in tragic moments.

Sandy, mother to Jordan, is blindsided when her sister Jenna, Travis’s mother, reveals a long-hidden secret in front of the family. And in a hurtful way.

It was easy to see that she acted out of pain, but the consequences would be long-standing, and the bitterness would last for the foreseeable future.

Emmett, Sandy’s husband, reacts to the revelation by leaving Sandy in the lurch…and ultimately, creating another chasm in the family.

Jordan makes another discovery that will lead him to an older woman named Libby Hennessey, whose husband Beck is somehow connected to him.

Meanwhile, so many events seem to collide and come together, in an almost domino effect, that had me, as a reader, wondering how everything would unfold. Why is the small town detective, Officer Huckabee, seemingly targeting Jordan? Why is he obsessed with Jenna, Travis’s mother? Who is cutting up and killing animals and displaying them on Libby’s property?

As the secrets, lies, and mistaken choices slowly come together, Faultlines reveals more of the darkness that lies within a small town and in a family, but also provides a glimpse of moments of healing. A five star read.

cropped-again-5***

REVIEW: DID YOU EVER HAVE A FAMILY, BY BILL CLEGG

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In a small Connecticut town, several individuals are caught up in a tragedy that ultimately links them, and through the pages, the author takes us into the lives of some of these individuals, revealing past and present choices, and leading us to a place of understanding just what happened that day.

It happens the night before the wedding between June’s daughter Lolly and her fiancé Will. At a time when everyone has gathered to celebrate, the explosion kills everyone but June.

The multiple narrators are somehow connected to those who were killed, and separate chapters are devoted to each of them, sometimes in first person and other times, third person. Each narrator has been somehow scarred by events, both before and after the tragedy. Some have been living outside societal norms, clinging to what sets them apart, as if the familiar roles they have fallen into are too comfortable to change. What truths have kept each of them outsiders? Who are they? There is Lydia, whose son Luke was also killed, but is somehow blamed for the tragedy. And then there is June, who was Luke’s older lover, dubbed a cougar by the townsfolk. And then there are Rebecca and Kelly, who live in Moclips, Washington, as far from events as could be, but somehow they are connected to what happened by virtue of offering refuge to one of them.

How did June escape the tragedy, walking away without an identification, to find that refuge? Why did the small town folk believe only the worst about Luke and Lydia? And even though she was from a more polished life, why did they also seem to shun June?

Did You Ever Have A Family could be a poignant view of small town life, with all of its flaws and foibles, reminding us that sometimes the people we choose to dismiss are more like us than not, and that understanding goes a long way toward forgiveness.

The characters’ stories were intimate and insightful. Even though I struggled at times to make the connections between the numerous characters, by the end I could see a clear picture forming. 4 stars.

A JOURNEY THROUGH TRAGEDY…AND BEYOND — A REVIEW

DayAfterYesterday_coverAlong a stretch of Hwy. 101 in California, a straggling collection of people linger in a diner, while the rains pound ruthlessly and the few customers are reluctant to breach the torrents of the outside world. A rain-drenched and soaked man enters, looking battered and beaten by much more than the rains….

Thus begins our story, and as the prologue reveals, life has changed dramatically for this man; we soon learn that his name is Daniel Whitman, and that horrific things have happened to him.

Flash back five months, and we see his life before. And what tragedy led Daniel to this place. We know before the story begins that his family is taken away from him: a wife and a son. What we learn now, slowly, is what his journey will look like now. And how he, inexplicably, or so it seemed to those he left behind, walked out of his life.

The Day After Yesterday is the tale of that journey, but it reveals much more: after the events of Daniel’s life following his tragedy, people and events reshape his life view and even his choices. And eventually he does go home, but everything is different.

The story alternates between Daniel’s journey and what happens to those he seemingly abandoned.

Then later, the story moves ahead and shows us what this newly reshaped life looks like. We meet new characters, we see miraculous events unfold…and in the end, we are left filled with a wide range of emotions.

At least that’s what I felt for the first 300 or so pages. But then the pace quickened and moved ahead years and suddenly it wasn’t just about Daniel anymore, but a metaphorical discovery of life and how we are pummeled by it at times…and how we can choose to let it batter us. Or we can accept it and move on.

A very philosophical story that had moments of sheer joy mixed with the darkest angst. The story took a lot out of me; and in the end, I knew I would think of it for a long while. My only issue with it was the pace and the pages and pages that felt unnecessary. However, they did skewer the point about life and how it gives us a beating sometimes. For me, however, this one earned four stars.