Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Secrets She Keeps

Book: The Secret She Keeps
Author: Michael Robotham

Agatha is pregnant and works part-time stocking shelves at a grocery store in a ritzy London suburb, counting down the days until her baby is due. As the hours of her shifts creep by in increasing discomfort, the one thing she looks forward to at work is catching a glimpse of Meghan, the effortlessly chic customer whose elegant lifestyle dazzles her. Meghan has it all: two perfect children, a handsome husband, a happy marriage, a stylish group of friends, and she writes perfectly droll confessional posts on her popular parenting blog—posts that Agatha reads with devotion each night as she waits for her absent boyfriend, the father of her baby, to maybe return her calls.

When Agatha learns that Meghan is pregnant again, and that their due dates fall within the same month, she finally musters up the courage to speak to her, thrilled that they now have the ordeal of childbearing in common. Little does Meghan know that the mundane exchange she has with a grocery store employee during a hurried afternoon shopping trip is about to change the course of her not-so-perfect life forever…-Goodreads

Review: Meg is a stay-at-home mom of 2 who is pregnant and due with a "surprise" baby in December. Her husband is a television sports reporter. Agatha, single and also pregnant and due in December, works at a local grocery store and watches Meg from a distance, believing Meg and her family to be picture perfect. But is anything really perfect behind closed doors? 

"My biggest flaw is my attraction to people. I find somebody new and attach myself, desperate for a friend. That's why I've been so careful around Meg, watching from a distance rather than getting too close. I know her timetable, her friends, her habits, and the rhythm of her life." - Agatha

I loved this book. It was well written, engaging and while not exactly a 'thriller' very disturbing on multiple levels. Robotham constructed a believable story about two women with secrets with devastating consequences. 

Grade: 4.5/5

The Woman In the Window

Book: The Woman In the Window
Author: A.J. Finn

It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . .

Anna Fox lives alone, a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, mother, their teenaged son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble?and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.-Goodreads

Review: It's been almost a year since Anna's husband left her and took their daughter, leaving her alone in their large brownstone in NYC. Anna's agoraphobic and spends her days drinking, watching Hitchcock films and spying on her neighbors. When a new family moves in across the park and she sees the mother stabbed, Anna tries to help but quickly finds herself under suspicion. Okay-is this similar to A Girl on the Train? Yes. But it was still a ton of fun to read (and will be fabulous to watch at the movies, this has to be made into a movie at some point) and I will absolutely read more by this author. I figured out several plot points (not all  of them) and it didn't detract from my reading pleasure at all. Overall, very well written, fun thriller. I really empathized with Anna as well. 

Grade: 4/5

The Club Trilogy

Series: The Club Trilogy
Author: Lauren Rowe

In The Club Trilogy, when wealthy playboy Jonas Faraday receives an anonymous note from Sarah Cruz, a law student working part-time processing online applications for an exclusive club, and he becomes obsessed with hunting her down and giving her the satisfaction she claims has always eluded her. Thus begins a sweeping tale of obsession, passion, desperation, and ultimately, redemption. -Goodreads
The Club
A wealthy Seattle businessman (with a tragic past) who doesn't date falls for a young brunette who (while not a virgin) has never experienced true pleasure. Sound familiar? Yes, I felt like there were some similarities to 50 Shades here but I really enjoyed The Club anyway. My favorite thing was that I actually laughed out loud a few times. Jonas decides to join an exclusive sex club for a year and while filling out his application, he decides to address his intake agent. First year law student Sarah, his intake agent, decides to create an anonymous email and send him a message back. Thus begins the relationship between Jonas and Sarah. It was flirty and oh so fun to read. 

4/5 stars 

The Reclamation
Sarah discovers her employer is not what she thought it was. Sarah and Jonas continue their relationship while trying to decide how to handle the situation with The Club. This was an enjoyable read, not as good as the first but I still liked it.

3/5 stars

The Redemption
Sarah, Jonas and their crew head to Vegas to try to take down The Club. There was a lot of potential with this book and the characters themselves even reference Oceans 11, but when the best scene in the book took place at a bank, we never even read about it as it was happening. Frustrating! Jonas kept referring to Sarah as 'my precious baby' which is a huge turnoff for me. I find that so gross for whatever reason (maybe because I have an actual 1.5 yr old at home that I sometimes call my precious little baby). Anyway, my least favorite of the series but overall I did enjoy the trilogy. I think some actual tension or threat of breakup between Sarah and Jonas would have been good but once they got together in book 1, they were "together" the whole series. 

2/5 stars

Series: 3/5 stars

One and Only

Book: One and Only
Series: Bridesmaids Behaving Badly #1
Author: Jenny Holiday

With her bridezilla friend on a DIY project rampage, bridesmaid Jane Denning will do anything to escape - even if it means babysitting the groom's troublemaker brother before the wedding. It should be a piece of cake, except the "cake" is a sarcastic former soldier who is 100% wicked hotness and absolutely off-limits.

Cameron MacKinnon is ready to let loose after returning from his deployment. But first he'll have to sweet talk the ultra-responsible Jane into taking a walk on the wild side. Turns out, riling her up is the best time he's had in years. But what happens when the fun and games start to turn into something real?-Goodreads
Review: This is a cute romance about a writer and ex-soldier. Jane's best friend is getting married and is acting like a total bridezilla. Jane is assigned 'babysitting' duty with the groom's younger brother who just left the military. Why does a grown man need a babysitter? Apparently trouble follows him wherever he goes. I think the plot was a little flimsy here as the examples of his bad behavior were so long ago it shouldn't have made a difference. Of course-Cameron is hot, sexy and covered in tattoos. While he initially finds Jane plump and boring, he comes to find her sexy, curvy and beautiful. She did have a great personality and was very funny. I never really bought into Cameron. He was not a confident person with clear direction in life and maybe I projected too much of myself into Jane, but I just could not deal with someone like him. 

Overall, cute story. I liked it well enough. 

Grade: 2.5/5

Silent Victim

Book: Silent Victim
Author: Caroline Mithcell

Emma is a loving wife, a devoted mother…and an involuntary killer. For years she’s been hiding the dead body of the teacher who seduced her as a teen.

It’s a secret that might have stayed buried if only her life had been less perfect. A promotion for Emma’s husband, Alex, means they can finally move to a bigger home with their young son. But with a buyer lined up for their old house, Emma can’t leave without destroying every last trace of her final revenge…

Returning to the shallow grave in the garden, she finds it empty. The body is gone.

Panicked, Emma confesses to her husband. But this is only the beginning. Soon, Alex will discover things about her he’ll wish he’d learned sooner. And others he’ll long to forget.-Goodreads

Review: As a parent of a daughter, this book scared the crap out of me. A naive teenager, Emma was targeted by her art teacher and lured into a "relationship" with him. He manipulated her and the people around them to think she was targeting him and crazy. Years later, Emma kills him and buries the body on her property. When her husband announces they are moving for a job promotion and he's sold their house, she has to figure out what to do with the body. 

This was written in different timelines and narratives. In the present day, we followed Emma and her husband Alex as she tries to figure out what to do and as he discovers there is more to his wife than he originally thought. In the older timeline, we follow Emma as a naive teenager whose mother and older sister abandoned the family, with no friends but a teacher who seems to really believe in her. Where this book shines (in the creepiest way possible) is the narrative of the art teacher who decides to seduce Emma. He's truly evil. Some parts of the book were predictable but I think overall, the book was very well done. My only complaint is that we are never given a really detailed account of how Emma and her teacher ended up in the field on the back side of her property. 

Grade: 4/5

The Law of Tall Girls

Book: The Law of Tall Girls
Author: Joanne MacGregor

When you really stand out, can you ever fit in?

Seventeen-year-old Peyton Lane is a tall girl. So tall, it’s the only thing most people notice about her.

On impulse, she accepts a bet to prove she can be as attractive and desirable as other girls. Now she just needs to go on four dates (including the prom) with one of the guys on her very short list of very tall boys.

Number one on the list is Jay Young – the new guy that Peyton already likes way more than she should. Because not only is Jay already taken, he’s also breaking her Law of Tall Girls, and he’s determined to discover the awful secret she’s been hiding for most of her life.

Funny and romantic, The Law of Tall Girls is a feel-good, heart-warming read for anyone who’s ever felt different, or like they just don’t belong. -Goodreads

Review: This book was adorable. Peyton Lane is tall-really tall. No, she doesn't play basketball. And no, you don't need to keep asking her how tall she is or make comments about it. But teenagers are cruel so she is made fun of for her height often, making her self conscious. It doesn't help that it's almost impossible to find clothes to fit (I'm a woman of average height and I never even thought about the issues tall girls faced). Or find someone taller than you to date. 

This was just an adorable book from start to finish. I loved Peyton. While I was initially frustrated with how she treated her mother, but I understood where she was coming from when certain things were explained. I loved Peyton's tenacity and the relationship with her best friend. And I loved how the book ended. Overall, one of the best YA books I've read in awhile. 

Grade: 4.5/5

When You Disappeared

Book: When You Disappeared
Author: John Marrs

When Catherine wakes up alone one morning, she thinks her husband has gone for a run before work. But Simon never makes it to the office. His running shoes are by the front door. Nothing is missing—except him.

Catherine knows Simon must be in trouble. He wouldn’t just leave her. He wouldn’t leave the children.

But Simon knows the truth—about why he left and what he’s done. He knows things about his marriage that it would kill Catherine to find out. The memories she holds onto are lies.

While Catherine faces a dark new reality at home, Simon’s halfway around the world, alive and thriving. He’s doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the truth.

But he can’t hide forever, and when he reappears twenty-five years later, Catherine will finally learn who he is.

And wish she’d stayed in the dark.-Goodreads

Review: Have you ever read a book where you hated one of the characters so much, you had a visceral reaction even thinking about him or her? I have to hand it to John Marrs for creating such a character in this book. And that character is Simon-a man who walked out on his stay-at-home wife and their 3 young children without so much as a note. Instead, he decides to leave in the early morning and they are left thinking he may have died on a jog. We know immediately that Simon isn't dead as he shows up on Catherine's doorstep 25 years after leaving her. Why is he there and how can he possible explain his reasons for leaving? 

Told in alternating narratives, we follow Simon's wife Catherine as she struggles in the aftermath of his disappearance. She has to manage the kids, finances, her husband's disappearance as well and suspicions of people that she may have killed him. Meanwhile, Simon is on an absolutely unbelievable adventure that includes hostels, drugs, lots of sex, drug dealing and traveling. When I say 'unbelievable' I mean that literally. His sections really jumped the shark, especially when he arrives in Mexico and meets a women he supposedly falls in love with. I laughed right along with Catherine as he told her his story. 

I really cannot express how much I hate Simon. I finished this and told several people in a few days how horrible this character was. For that alone, I bumped this from a 3 star rating to 4 because a good writer can get under my skin. 

I'll def read more from this author!

Grade: 4/5

Las Vegas Girl

Book: Las Vegas Girl
Author: Leslie Wolfe

Detectives Laura Baxter and Jack Holt are members of the elite: Las Vegas Metro PD, one of the toughest and most respected law enforcement agencies in the United States. In the middle of a city with two million residents and 43 million annual visitors, they’re hunting for a killer.

The crime: audacious

In a glamorous Las Vegas hotel, in front of hundreds of witnesses and under the lenses of countless video surveillance cameras, a young girl is brutally murdered. What promises to be a quick and easy investigation soon becomes a nightmare. The most recorded crime in Vegas is missing one key protagonist, the killer.

The forensics: stupefying

A crime-scene fingerprint unleashes dozens of unsettling questions instead of providing answers. Was this a murder for hire? In the politically-charged case, the scenario seems plausible; the victim’s secret life could’ve been the obstacle in an ambitious politician’s path. As the investigation unspools the well-concealed secrets surrounding the girl’s life, Baxter and Holt attract the attention of someone desperate to keep history’s terrible secrets buried.

The truth: shocking

A testimony from beyond the grave turns into a death warrant for the two unrelenting detectives. While they expose a connection with the victim’s distant past that could hold the key to catching her killer, they must learn to rely on each other to survive.

Two mavericks make an intriguing team. Baxter and Holt trust each other with their lives, only not with their darkest secrets. -Goodreads
Review: Another fun thriller! My favorite thing about this book? The detectives themselves. Laura Baxter and Jack Holt are assigned to the homicide of a young woman thrown off an interior balcony at a strip hotel. The catch? The victim's sister is marrying a powerful politician. Another catch? Baxter and Holt are both on probation of sorts and need to follow the letter of the law to close this case. But Baxter and Holt? They both like to operate in the gray area to get things done, so following the rules isn't exactly their MO. I found this fast paced, engaging and I hope another book is written to make this a series. I did feel like I was reading a screen play at times and could easily see this as a tv series or movie. 

Grade: 4/5

Bone Music

Book: Bone Music
Series: Bone Music #1
Author: Christopher Rice

Charlotte Rowe spent the first seven years of her life in the hands of the only parents she knew—a pair of serial killers who murdered her mother and tried to shape Charlotte in their own twisted image. If only the nightmare had ended when she was rescued. Instead, her real father exploited her tabloid-ready story for fame and profit—until Charlotte finally broke free from her ghoulish past and fled. Just when she thinks she has buried her personal hell forever, Charlotte is swept into a frightening new ordeal. Secretly dosed with an experimental drug, she’s endowed with a shocking new power—but pursued by a treacherous corporation desperate to control her.

Except from now on, if anybody is going to control Charlotte, it’s going to be Charlotte herself. She’s determined to use the extraordinary ability she now possesses to fight the kind of evil that shattered her life—by drawing a serial killer out from the shadows to face the righteous fury of a victim turned avenger.-Goodreads

Review"Charlotte, you were kidnapped as a baby. Your mother was murdered. You were held hostage for seven years by two psychopaths who isolated you from the world, who lied to you about who you were. Who tried to turn you into someone like them. And when you were returned to your father, he exploited you at every turn and without your consent." 

That quote does a great job summarizing Charlotte's life from a baby through most of her teenage years. Charlotte is now in her mid-20's and still struggling with her past. Her psychiatrist convinces her to try an experimental drug to help ease her anxiety and sleep issues and she quickly realizes it gives her Luke Cage type abilities for approx. 3 hours. The key is to how the powers are triggered. Charlotte isn't sure who she can trust and quickly finds herself the target of several powerful men. 

This was a another fun read (March has been a great reading month for me!). Thanks to my friend Kristen for finding this book and recommending it to me. While the characters themselves are a little flat and several of the "reveals" were obvious, I didn't care. It was a page turner. I was immediately engaged in the story and couldn't wait to see how it all ended. I'll definitely be reading the next one in the series. 

"You can admit that what happened to you made you stronger without celebrating the people who did those things to you."

Grade: 3.5/5

Friday, March 30, 2018

Second Honeymoon

Book: Second Honeymoon
Series: Honeymoon
Author: James Patterson

A walk down the aisle, a resort hotel, a drink on the beach...for these unlucky couples, the honeymoon's over.

A newlywed couple steps into the sauna in their deluxe honeymoon suite--and never steps out again. When another couple is killed while boarding their honeymoon flight to Rome, it becomes clear that someone is targeting honeymooners, and it's anyone's guess which happy couple is next on the list.

FBI Agent John O'Hara is deep into solving the case, while Special Agent Sarah Brubaker is hunting another ingenious serial killer, whose victims all have one chilling thing in common.

As wedding hysteria rises to a frightening new level, John and Sarah work ever more closely together in a frantic attempt to decipher the logic behind two rampages. Second Honeymoon is James Patterson's most mesmerizing, most exciting, and most surprising thriller ever.-Goodreads

Review: While the first book was a ton of fun, I had trouble engaging in this installment. I liked O'Hara and Sarah but the case wasn't that interesting to me. An okay read. 

Grade: 2/5


Book: Honeymoon
Series: Honeymoon #1
Author: James Patterson

How does it feel to be desired by every man and envied by every woman? Wonderful. This is the life Nora Sinclair has dreamed about, the life she's worked hard for, the life she will never give up. Meet Nora Sinclair.

When FBI agent John O'Hara first sees her, she seems perfect. She has the looks. The career. The clothes. The wit. The sophistication. The tantalizing sex appeal. The whole extraordinary package - and men fall in line to court her. She doesn't just attract men, she enthralls them. If you dare.

So why is the FBI so interested in Nora Sinclair? Mysterious things keep happening to people around her, especially the men. And there is something dangerous about Nora when Agent O'Hara looks closer - something that lures him at the same time that it fills him with fear. Is there something dark hidden among the unexplained gaps in her past? And as he spends more and more time getting to know her, is he pursuing justice? Or his own fatal obsession? -Goodreads

Review: Undercover FBI John O'Hara is investigating Nora Sinclair, a possible black widow serial killer. It's been ages since I read a Patterson book and this was a lot of fun from start to finish. Fast paced, short chapters and a story it was easy to get lost in. 

Grade: 4/5