Welcome to Kathy’s Book Bag

I Am Now A Blogger

With so many fun book challenges to participate in, I could no longer be without a blog.  I intend for the blog to help me keep track of my reading for the year as well as my progress on the challenges I choose to join.

By popcorn317 Posted in Books

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman

Book Description:
Published: August 30, 2022
Stars: 4

Fact, fiction, and urban legend blend in this haunting story about a young woman mistakenly imprisoned at Willowbrook State School, the real-life institution later shuttered for its horrendous abuses.

Sage Winters always knew her sister was a little different even though they were identical twins. They loved the same things and shared a deep understanding, but Rosemary—awake to every emotion, easily moved to joy or tears—seemed to need more protection from the world.

Six years after Rosemary’s death from pneumonia, Sage, now sixteen, still misses her deeply. Their mother perished in a car crash, and Sage’s stepfather, Alan, resents being burdened by a responsibility he never wanted. Yet despite living as near strangers in their Staten Island apartment, Sage is stunned to discover that Alan has kept a shocking secret: Rosemary didn’t die. She was committed to Willowbrook State School and has lingered there until just a few days ago, when she went missing.

Sage knows little about Willowbrook. It’s always been a place shrouded by rumor and mystery. A place local parents threaten to send misbehaving kids. With no idea what to expect, Sage secretly sets out for Willowbrook, determined to find Rosemary. What she learns, once she steps through its doors and is mistakenly believed to be her sister, will change her life in ways she never could imagined . . .

Review –

“Historical fiction, like any other form of fiction, has its rulebook, and the author flouts it at his or her peril. While the author can — and almost certainly does — take liberties with history, there are serious, prudential limitations in doing so. One can’t, for example, write about Davy Crockett and then not have him die at the Alamo. (Well, you can, but then you’ve left the precincts of historical fiction for the broad pastures of alternative history, which in turn has its own rules.)

But it’s not just characters that matter; it’s settings as well. The author has to be honest about where he or she is in history, and what it was like. This does not mean that if you are writing a Regency romance, you have to be incredibly specific with the not-so-romantic features of Regency history, such as what going to the dentist would have been like. There’s nothing wrong with putting a gloss on history — most of the time. But there are places, times and events that are 100 percent serious business, and anyone who writes about them has an obligation to tell the truth in full. Ellen Marie Wiseman understands this, and to her credit, she has turned out a portrait of Willowbrook State School that is unvarnished, painful and startlingly clear.

You could say that Willowbrook was a snake pit — Robert F. Kennedy said so once, and everyone ignored him — but that doesn’t cover it. The snakes can’t help being there; they’re just snakes. You could say that Willowbrook was one of Dante’s circles of hell, but that doesn’t cover it either. It’s demons that run hell, and they torment the souls of the damned because that’s what demons do. Willowbrook was awful beyond the power of mere adjectives to describe. It was run by people who thought they knew what they were doing, and went to bed every night thinking that they were doing good in this world.

They were not.

Wiseman contrives to put her narrator, Sage Winters, inside Willowbrook. Sage initially has the idea that a “state school” has classrooms, teachers and books — and finds out that this is just the first of the cynical lies that surround the place. She soon learns the essential truth — that Willowbrook is a lonely citadel where abuse and neglect reign over a kingdom of misery. Or if that’s too poetic, it’s a place where people with mental illness and developmental and intellectual disabilities rot in their own filth. THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK is extremely graphic in this area, but it has to be. Anything else would be not only dishonest but also disrespectful.

Bringing the unquiet ghosts of Willowbrook to life is what this book does best, and if it didn’t do anything else, it would be worth your time. But there’s a story to be told here, and while it is undoubtedly compelling — I lost a good part of a night’s sleep over it — adding an undeniably creepy murder mystery to the mix seems a little forced. (Wiseman does portray Geraldo Rivera as one of the heroes of the story, and whatever you might think about his subsequent career, she gets this part exactly right.)

Willowbrook was bulldozed years ago; the property now hosts Staten Island College. Pennhurst — a similar institution in Pennsylvania with its own terrible history — is still there, crumbling and abandoned, and plays host to a haunted house attraction each Halloween when it’s not being pored over by TV ghost hunters.

The story of what happened in these places — where good, well-meaning individuals immiserated thousands of the most vulnerable and fragile people for what they thought was the best of reasons — is an American story that deserves to be told and retold. It’s a story that has to be taken seriously, and credit to Ellen Marie Wiseman for bringing Willowbrook back to the national consciousness.” bookreporter.com

Not for the faint of heart, but certainly not to be disregarded. The Lost Girls of Willowbrook is eyes wide open.

Highly recommend.

Desert Star (Renee Ballard #4,Harry Bosch #36) by Michael Connelly

Book Description:
Published: November 4, 2022
Stars: 5

LAPD detective Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch work together to hunt the killer who is Bosch’s “white whale”—a man responsible for the murder of an entire family.

A year has passed since LAPD detective Renée Ballard quit the force in the face of misogyny, demoralization, and endless red tape. Yet, after the chief of police himself tells her she can write her ticket within the department, Ballard takes back her badge, leaving “the Late Show” to rebuild the cold case unit at the elite Robbery-Homicide Division.

For years, Harry Bosch has been working a case that haunts him but that he hasn’t been able to crack—the murder of an entire family by a psychopath who still walks free. Ballard makes Bosch an offer: come work with her as a volunteer investigator in the new Open-Unsolved Unit, and he can pursue his “white whale” with the resources of the LAPD behind him.

The two must put aside old resentments to work together again and close in on a dangerous killer. Propulsive and unstoppable, this new novel demonstrates once again why “Connelly is the real deal” (Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review).

Review –

A snap of the yo-yo string yanks Harry Bosch out of retirement yet again.

Los Angeles Councilman Jake Pearlman has resurrected the LAPD’s Open-Unsolved Unit in order to reopen the case of his kid sister, Sarah, whose 1994 murder was instantly eclipsed in the press by the O.J. Simpson case when it broke a day later. Since not even a councilor can reconstitute a police unit for a single favored case, Det. Renée Ballard and her mostly volunteer (read: unpaid) crew are expected to reopen some other cold cases as well, giving Bosch a fresh opportunity to gather evidence against Finbar McShane, the crooked manager he’s convinced executed industrial contractor Stephen Gallagher, his wife, and their two children in 2013 and buried them in a single desert grave.

The case has haunted Bosch more than any other he failed to close, and he’s fine to work the Pearlman homicide if it’ll give him another crack at McShane. As it turns out, the Pearlman case is considerably more interesting—partly because the break that leads the unit to a surprising new suspect turns out to be both fraught and misleading, partly because identifying the killer is only the beginning of Bosch’s problems.

The windup of the Gallagher murders, a testament to sweating every detail and following every lead wherever it goes, is more heartfelt but less wily and dramatic. Fans of the aging detective who fear that he might be mellowing will be happy to hear that “putting him on a team did not make him a team player.”

 Not the best of Connelly’s procedurals, but nobody else does them better than his second-best.” KirkusReviews

Totally agree. I love Harry Bosch and have read every book and can’t wait for the next one.

The Mask of Sanity by Jacob M. Appel

Book Description:
Published: March 16, 2017
Stars: 3

On the outside, Dr. Jeremy Balint is a pillar of the community–the youngest division chief at his hospital, a model son to his elderly parents, fiercely devoted to his wife and two young daughters. On the inside, Dr. Jeremy Balint is a high-functioning sociopath, a man who truly believes himself to stand above the ethical norms of society. As long as life treats him well, Balint has no cause to harm others. When life treats him poorly, he reveals the depths of his cold-blooded depravity. In contrast to fictional predecessors like Dostoyevesky’s Raskolnikov and Camus’s Mersault, Dr. Balint is a man who already has it all–and will do everything in his power, no matter how immoral, to keep what he has.

Review –

The protagonist of Jacob Appel’s 2017 novel, The Mask of Sanity, is a doctor, a family man, and a murderer. Appel offers a rare insight into the life of this high functioning sociopath, Dr. Jeremy Balint. With a staggering seven master’s degrees, medical degree, law degree, and experience in clinical psychiatry, Appel is certainly authority enough to paint a convincing psychological profile of such a troubling protagonist. The close third person narration allows the reader to hear Balint’s twisted thoughts, while also observing and nearly falling victim to the carefully constructed facade of “the most ethical human being on the planet.”

Balint, in fact, appears to have a perfect life. After overcoming a difficult childhood, he becomes a successful cardiologist, marries a smart, beautiful woman, buys a house with a pool, and has two daughters who he adores. Living this beautiful life, Balint is tormented by the thought that it might not last. And it won’t, of course. He soon discovers that his wife is having an affair with a notoriously slippery colleague, Warren Sugarman. It quickly becomes apparent that Sugarman, a womanizing egomaniac, is sleeping with many women including Balint’s wife while neglecting his own ill-adjusted son. Balint reasons that the most important thing he can do is keep his domestic life intact. And so, as Appel writes, he “decides to murder his former friend and classmate.”

The reader becomes less sypathetic to Sugarman’s plight throughout the novel as he continues to schedule outings and dinners with both Balint and his wife, coaxing her to fall deeper in love with him as Balint watches and plays dumb to the affair. These particular scenes are made even more horrible by the fact that Balint’s wife appears to be geniunly in love with this clearly manipulative man. The sickening progression of this affair almost allows the reader to understand Balint’s fantasy of ending Sugarman’s life, despite his admitting at the start of the novel that “the real reason he was going to eliminate [his wife’s] lover was simply that he had decided he was going to do so–nothing more, nothing less.” Balint spends the rest of the novel spinning elaborate justifications for his actions, generally revolving around his two young daughters. This becomes a distinct pattern for his character. Everything is always justified around his subjective interpretation of morality and human worth.

Balint tries to convince the reader that his daughters “matter above all else: his ultimate legacy, the guardians of his image after his death,” and that he is committed to maintaining the ideal home environment he and his wife had spent a decade building for them. The strength of this argument is lessened by his wife, who shows no intention of leaving them and continues to prioritize her family over Sugarman, conducting the affair silently in her free time. Still, any sympathy that this justification may have ilicited is quickly erased when Balint decides “that his plan require[s] multiple victims.” In order to cover up this well motivated killing, Balint decides to murder five other random people, and signify his actions by tying an emerald ribbon around each of their necks. For each murder, he provides several reasons why he acted justly, but he also becomes more and more obsessed with his public image as “The Emerald Choker” and actually begins to enjoy the killing itself. Throughout this process, Balint wins awards for ethics in medicine, “given to a clinician who has mastered the art of ethical decision making,” promotes a charity organization through his synagogue, and climbs up the rankings at the hospital where he works, effectively subverting readers’ stereotypical expectations for serial killers as social outcasts.

Balint is an intriguing character, but the narration limits the reader’s interpretation by providing what is practically a diagnosis for his condition before the novel begins. The book’s introduction argues that sociopaths are not usually iconoclasts or pariahs as we imagine. Instead, they are “all around us, smiling and perpetrating evil.” This is a fresh picture of sociopaths, people who “recognize the difference [between right and wrong], but simply do not care” and are not capable of developing that care. After this introduction, the reader is thrust directly into the narrative with the first line: “Killing, Balint discovered, was the easy part.” This leaves little doubt that Balint is a sociopath, essentially removing any possibility for redemption, limiting any questions or hopes that the reader might have and thereby sacrificing an opportunity for suspenseful ambiguity. Balint himself even considers the possibility of his condition, but decides that “whether he actually was a sociopath…was not worth thinking about.” Likewise, the reader is spared having to come to his or her own conclusion.

Nevertheless, the novel is haunted by the eerie paradox of having a killer who is also a doctor, a criminal who is also a hero. Appel continually exploits the one essential similarity between these two roles. Both doctors and murderers believe that they have the right to determine the fate of others. Balint is part of a committee who decides which patients receive heart transplants and which do not, deciding in essence who will live and who will die. This is a surprisingly unscientific process. His occupation’s assumed right to play God cultivates the ego and confidence necessary for his killing. To Balint, “life is like a game of chess that people play with God. And as long as you’re winning, God lets you stay down here on Earth. But when God wins, that’s when He takes you.” In this case, Balint is God. The book flashes between Balint sitting in on the transplant committee, and Balint roaming the streets searching for victims. These moments begin to feel strangely similar. In both cases, the parties involved try to justify their decisions, but the justifications never really feel right. One can’t justify murdering a young boy because he is fat and will in the future be bullied, just as one can’t comfortably deny life to a father because he has high cholesteral or used to smoke.

The novel concludes suddenly, leaving the reader with a pressing question. Throughout, the reader is led to believe that Balint never comes close to being discovered as a killer, but the unexpected last page may indicate otherwise. What went wrong? No clear foreshadowing seems to provide the reader with an answer to this question, resulting in a somewhat unsatisfying finish. The reader inevitably curses the author for not providing the answer somewhere between the lines earlier in the text, but only because the author has succeeded in shocking and engaging her.

The Mask of Sanity offers a new image of sociopaths and criminals while reminding readers that the same God complex often driving them is present in people we admire. Some of those people we call heros. That concept in itself may cause readers to second guess their neighbors, friends, maybe even spouses, providing a delightful fear that speaks to Appel’s accomplishment as a writer.”cleaver magazine.com

Totally agree. My low rating was due to the narrator, who made the listening like nails on a chalkboard. I’m hoping for a sequel!

The Honeys by Ryan La Sala

Book Description:
Published: August 16, 2022
Stars: 3

From Ryan La Sala, the wildly popular author of Reverie, comes a twisted and tantalizing horror novel set amidst the bucolic splendor of a secluded summer retreat.

Mars has always been the lesser twin, the shadow to his sister Caroline’s radiance. But when Caroline dies under horrific circumstances, Mars is propelled to learn all he can about his once-inseparable sister who’d grown tragically distant.

Mars’s genderfluidity means he’s often excluded from the traditions — and expectations — of his politically-connected family. This includes attendance at the prestigious Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy where his sister poured so much of her time. But with his grief still fresh, he insists on attending in her place.

What Mars finds is a bucolic fairytale not meant for him. Folksy charm and sun-drenched festivities camouflage old-fashioned gender roles and a toxic preparatory rigor. Mars seeks out his sister’s old friends: a group of girls dubbed the Honeys, named for the beehives they maintain behind their cabin. They are beautiful and terrifying — and Mars is certain they’re connected to Caroline’s death.

But the longer he stays at Aspen, the more the sweet mountain breezes give way to hints of decay. Mars’s memories begin to falter, bleached beneath the relentless summer sun. Something is hunting him in broad daylight, toying with his mind. If Mars can’t find it soon, it will eat him alive.

Review –

Tantalizing and memorable, La Sala’s (Be Dazzled) elite summer camp–set horror novel is a tribute to the healing and revolutionary power of solidarity.

Seventeen-year-old white-cued, gender-fluid Mars Matthias has always been “eccentric” compared to their accomplished twin sister Caroline, especially in the eyes of their politically connected parents. To keep up appearances after Caroline’s sudden death following a harrowing incident in which she seemingly tried to harm Mars, Mars’s parents allege that she died from cancer, citing a sudden health decline preceding her death.

But Mars suspects foul play. Taking Caroline’s place at Aspen Summer Academy, a prestigious Catskills summer camp, Mars is determined to investigate. At Aspen, they’re drawn to Caroline’s beekeeping cabinmates, the Honeys: pale Mimi, “tall, tan” Sierra, and brown-skinned lesbian Bria.

The Honeys provide Mars with a community, accepting them for who they are, despite Aspen’s binary pressures. But the more secrets Mars uncovers, the more convinced they become that something at Aspen is responsible for Caroline’s death.

La Sala’s slow plot reveal is gripping, and the narrative’s lush prose crafts both deliciously creepy horror scenes and a nuanced, self-assured protagonist consumed by grief and longing for acceptance. Ages 14–up. Agent: Veronica Park, Fuse Literary. (Aug.)“publishersweekly.com

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure how I feel about this book. I’m going to have to think about it more, but until then, I can’t give it more than three stars. Something seemed lacking.

The Honeys by Ryan La Sala CR: Scholastic

Solace House (Jackman and Evans #9) by Joy Ellis

Book Description:
Published: October 6, 2022
Stars: 4


Holly Stewart moved into Solace House wanting a fresh start for her and her family. She knew a tragic murder had taken place there, but she didn’t know the full ghastly history of the house.

Now, her husband has lost his job, the children are bullied at school, and someone is prowling around the garden at night. Someone who wants them gone.

Detective Jackman wants to help. Instead he’s been pulled into a twenty-year-old cold case. The gruesome murder of a young woman whose head was never found. A new witness comes forward. He claims to have crucial evidence on what really happened that night.

Days later, a group of litter-pickers uncover black sacks containing dismembered human limbs. Attending the scene, DS Marie Evans is shocked to see a strange symbol carved into the victim’s flesh: the same symbol found on the headless girl all those years ago.

The murders must be connected. But why has the killer struck again — after twenty years?

As the threats to the Stewart family escalate, Jackman must choose between helping people in the present and solving the crimes of the past.

Review –

A piece of advice: don’t trust anyone in this gripping tale of ritualistic killings, intimidation and deceit…

There’s a lull in activity in the quiet Lincolnshire Fens. DI Rowan Jackman and DS Marie Evans are tasked with investigating the haunting cold-case of a young woman whose head was never discovered.

But when dismembered limbs turn up days later bearing similar markings, the pair are convinced that the killer is still at large.

Meanwhile, an intimidation campaign at an isolated house with a frightening history has Jackman stumped – who could possibly want an innocent family out of their home?

Like a perfectly-crafted detective show, the tension in Joy Ellis’ latest novel rises along with the body count, ramping up with every new revelation or gruesome discovery.

Cold and calculated killers roam the pages and threads of a dark past weave their way through each chapter until the book reaches its powerful – and shocking – conclusion. But don’t worry, Solace House isn’t all chopped up bodies and misery; Ellis adds a touch of lightness when it’s needed too.

The chemistry between Jackman and Evans is as delightful as ever, their friendship testament to everything they’ve been through in previous investigations. New loves, old friends and an unrivalled team spirit also bring warmth to an otherwise chilling thriller.

Settle down somewhere comfortable for this absolute page-turner…you won’t be getting up for some time!” love reading.co.uk

Totally agree. This is one of my favorite foreign crime fiction series, the story lines never disappoints !

The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones

Book Description:
Published: May 31, 2021
Stars: 4

Rachel and Noah have been friends since they met at university. While they once thought that they might be something more, now, twenty years later, they are each happily married to other people, Jack and Paige respectively. Jack’s brother Will is getting married, to the dazzling, impulsive Ali, and the group of six travel to Portugal for their destination weekend.

Three couples.
As they arrive at a gorgeous villa perched on a cliff-edge, overlooking towering waves that crash on the famous surfing beaches below at Nazaré, they try to settle into a weekend of fun. While Rachel is looking forward to getting to know her future sister-in-law Ali better, Ali can’t help but rub many of the group up the wrong way: Rachel’s best friend Paige thinks Ali is attention-seeking and childish, and while Jack is trying to support his brother Will’s choice of wife, he is also finding plenty to disagree with Noah about.

One fatal misunderstanding . . .
But when Rachel discovers something about Ali that she can hardly believe, everything changes. As the wedding weekend unfolds, the secrets each of them hold begin to spill, and friendships and marriages threaten to unravel. Soon, jumping to conclusions becomes the difference between life and death.

Review –

“Will and Ali are getting married in gorgeous Portugal and four of their closest friends are coming along with many family members. What could go wrong? Well, a lot.  Ali, Will, Paige, Noah, Rachel and Jack are all sharing a beautiful villa on cliffs that overlook the ocean.  No one likes Ali, the bride, as they find her manipulative and attention seeking.  Will’s brother, Jack, doesn’t even like her even though he is the one that introduced the two. Readers find out that Ali once worked for Jack.  Jack’s wife, Rachel, has her own problems on this trip.  She is excited her best friend, Paige, is coming along with her husband, Noah, but she and Noah were best friends in college. They have a romantic history and one that she can’t seem to forget.  While at their beautiful villa that they are all staying in, secrets start to come out, suspicions get serious, and there’s tons of drama that unfolds in The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones.

At first I wasn’t sure why no one liked Ali, but the more I got to know her, the more annoying she became in The Guilt Trip. She wasn’t exactly bridezilla, but she is extremely attention-seeking. She has some major secrets and they will seriously disrupt the wedding if they get out.  Then there’s Jack, the groom’s brother, who is mysterious as well. Rachel can’t help but feel like he is hiding something. She starts to suspect he is having an affair.  Or maybe it’s her mental affair that she is having with Noah, her college boyfriend? Rachel can’t seem to let go of the fact that twenty years ago she walked away from Noah to be with Jack and she is still grappling with this decision.  Being here at a wedding in Portugal with Noah doesn’t make anything easier, not to mention her best friend, Paige, is Noah’s wife!  So, as the story unfolds none of the characters are who they seem. They are all withholding secrets and as they get closer to the wedding, the drama comes to a head.

What makes The Guilt Trip more of a beach read than usual is the cliff side villa in Portugal. Jones really brought it to life and made me feel like I was on vacation too. The rocky caves, the large waves, and the beautiful cliff side homes and restaurants were all perfect settings for a beach read. 

I thought The Guilt Trip was going to be a thriller, but it actually reads a bit like a domestic suspense novel. There’s a lot of drama. At times I felt it was overdone; it was like car accident you can’t stop staring at.  I was drawn to the drama just to see how it would play out.  And things get really dramatic towards the end. So, if you like an immersive soap-opera of a novel, check out The Guilt Trip as summer comes to an end. It would be a great book to get lost in over vacation or a lazy day at the pool.”confessionsofabookaddict.com

It may read like a soap opera but it still sure helps the mind to wander from the every day realities for a while. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

If You’re Reading This by Kirsten Modglin

Book Description:
Published: September 1, 2022
Stars: 4

The day of their dreams was nothing short of a nightmare.

On the one-year anniversary of her wedding, Colbie Moore’s life looks nothing like it should.
Still grieving the loss of the man she meant to spend her life with, Colbie prepares for a weekend away to take her mind off her heartache, but the simple plan results in much more than she bargained for.

A box of letters, meant for the bride and groom to open on their anniversary, is instead opened by Colbie and her three best friends—Miles, James, and Eric.
And what it holds could ruin everything.

A mysterious note from a surprising sender shocks Colbie, propelling her down a dark path to discover the truth about the man she loved—his life and his death—before it’s too late.

Soon, Colbie begins to question everyone around her as the mystery unravels.
What was Phil hiding from her when he died?
What secrets are still hidden?

The closer she gets to answers, the clearer it becomes that someone has gone to great lengths to protect their lies.
And if she pushes any more, everything she has left could be exactly what she stands to lose.

Is it worth risking everything to truly know the man she’s already lost?
After all, she’s been warned…she might not be able to handle what she finds.

A heart-wrenching domestic suspense about love, loss, and deception from bestselling author Kiersten Modglin.

Review –

“Colbie Moore is about to celebrate the most unusual of wedding anniversaries. It is one year after she was to say I do to a husband that died unexpectedly just before she got the chance. Together with her three best friends, Miles, James, and Eric, Colbie is ready to open a box of letters, letters meant to be opened by her and her husband Phil on their precious first anniversary. Thankfully, she is not alone, and with the help of her friends, she should be able to get through this difficult endeavor.

Opening the letters gets harder and harder. Especially as one of the letters contains just enough evidence to indicate that Phil might not have been the man she thought he was. Who was the man that she was just about to marry? Furthermore, why are his parents being so hateful towards her? Then, as if she doesn’t have enough to concern herself with, Colbie is forced to examine each of her friendships, with no guarantee that she will like what she finds. As the story unfolds, it flips between past and present, thus building a very intriguing story.

Kiersten Modglin is a prolific author who has recently landed on my radar. Now I have a challenge to read every single book this incredibly talented author has written. I love that I learned about her writing while reading several of her psychological thriller novels. This book is a very well-written domestic suspense, which I found to be quite a pleasant turn. For a page-turning book that is sure to capture the reader’s attention, one with a few twists and a surprising ending, If You’re Reading This comes strongly recommended.”robinlovesreading.com 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though some things were over the top. It’s only a book so get over it! There is an ending that you may or may not like. Just saying!

Never Lie by Freida McFadden

Book Description:
Published: September 19, 2022
Stars: 5

Newlyweds Tricia and Ethan are searching for the house of their dreams.

But when they visit the remote manor that once belonged to Dr. Adrienne Hale, a renowned psychiatrist who vanished without a trace four years earlier, a violent winter storm traps them at the estate… with no chance of escape until the blizzard comes to an end.

In search of a book to keep her entertained until the snow abates, Tricia happens upon a secret room. One that contains audio transcripts from every single patient Dr. Hale has ever interviewed. As Tricia listens to the cassette tapes, she learns about the terrifying chain of events leading up to Dr. Hale’s mysterious disappearance.

Tricia plays the tapes one by one, late into the night. With each one, another shocking piece of the puzzle falls into place, and Dr. Adrienne Hale’s web of lies slowly unravels.

And then Tricia reaches the final cassette.

The one that reveals the entire horrifying truth.

Review –

“Newlyweds Ethan and Tricia were house hunting, looking for the perfect house to live their lives and grow their family.

One evening, during a snowstorm, the drove to a remote manor where Dr. Adrienne Hale once lived. Dr. Hale vanished without a trace four years earlier. Tricia is initially creeped out by the house; she felt uneasy the moment she walked in there. Ethan didn’t seem as uneasy.

While looking to for something to keep herself occupied, Tricia reaches for a book to read, and instead of coming off the shelf, opens to a hidden room where Dr. Hale kept tapes of all her sessions with her clients. Tricia decides to listen to the tapes, and she learns about what happened leading up to Dr. Hale’s disappearance. And then Tricia listens to one particular tape, the one that reveals the truth.

WOW! I love Freida McFadden books, but I think this one easily slid into my second favorite from her! Told from both the present perspective through Tricia, and the past through Dr. Hale, Never Lie keeps you guessing as to what was happening. I REALLY thought I figured it out, about 28% into the book. I was just waiting to prove myself right by continuing to read. Boy, was I wrong! I didn’t see that twist coming from a mile away! Then, I was really shocked when there was another twist! This really is one of the best Freida McFadden books. This book is perfect for any McFadden fan, or any fan of psychological thrillers. 5 giant stars!”thebookreviewcrew.com

Totally agree! I highly recommend this author.

The It Girl by Ruth Ware

Book Description:
Published: July 12, 2022
Stars: 4

April Coutts-Cliveden was the first person Hannah Jones met at Oxford. 

Vivacious, bright, occasionally vicious, and the ultimate It girl, she quickly pulled Hannah into her dazzling orbit. Together, they developed a group of devoted and inseparable friends—Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily—during their first term. By the end of the second, April was dead.

Now, a decade later, Hannah and Will are expecting their first child, and the man convicted of killing April, former Oxford porter John Neville, has died in prison. Relieved to have finally put the past behind her, Hannah’s world is rocked when a young journalist comes knocking and presents new evidence that Neville may have been innocent. As Hannah reconnects with old friends and delves deeper into the mystery of April’s death, she realizes that the friends she thought she knew all have something to hide… including a murder.

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of One by One returns with an unputdownable mystery following a woman on the search for answers a decade after her friend’s murder. 

Review –

Ten years after having discovered her Oxford roommate’s dead body in front of the fireplace in their room, a young woman struggles with the realization that she may have helped send the wrong man to prison.

Hannah Jones arrives at Oxford hardly believing that she’s been accepted into this haven of learning and wealth. Sharing a picturesque set of rooms with the flamboyant and beautiful April Clarke-Cliveden, she divides her time between rigorous studying and energetic socializing with Emily Lippmana, Ryan Coates, Hugh Bland, and Will de Chastaigne, with whom she shares an attraction even though he’s April’s boyfriend.

It’s a good life except for the increasingly creepy interactions she has with John Neville, one of the porters. When Hannah finds April dead one night just after she’s seen Neville coming down the stairs from their rooms, it’s her testimony that puts him in jail.

Ware divides the novel into alternating “before” and “after” chapters, with the narrative of Hannah’s college experience unfolding parallel to the events of her life nearly a decade later, when she’s married to Will and pregnant with their first child. Then Neville dies in prison and Hannah hears from a reporter who thinks he might actually have been innocent.

Hannah begins to wonder herself, and she plunges back into the past to see if she can figure out what really happened that night. As usual with Ware, the novel is well crafted—the setting, characters, and dialogue are all engaging—but it lacks the author’s signature sense of urgent and imminent threat. The novel unfolds smoothly, providing a few twists and turns, as the reader might expect, but not really delivering any true suspense. It also lacks the contrast between a luxurious background and the characters’ fears that Ware has often played to great effect.

She does offer a deeper dive into the trauma of the survivors than she usually does, but this isn’t the breathless page-turner one has come to expect from Ware.

Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.Kirkus Reviews

I agree with Kirkus on this one. I had expected more because of the hype the book received when it came out. I enjoyed the storyline and thought each character COULD be the killer, but the killer was not a complete surprise because in life you should always”watch out for the quiet ones”

Find Her (Detective D.D. Warren #9) by Lisa Gardner

isa Gardner’s runaway New York Times bestseller–a fast-paced thrill ride featuring Detective D. D. Warren. 

Seven years ago, carefree college student Flora Dane was kidnapped while on spring break. For 472 days, Flora learned just how much one person can endure.

Miraculously alive after her ordeal, Flora has spent the past five years reacquainting herself with the rhythms of normal life, working with her FBI victim advocate, Samuel Keynes. She has a mother who’s never stopped loving her, a brother who is scared of the person she’s become, and a bedroom wall covered with photos of other girls who’ve never made it home.

When Boston detective D. D. Warren is called to the scene of a crime–a dead man and the bound, naked woman who killed him–she learns that Flora has tangled with three other suspects since her return to society. Is Flora a victim or a vigilante? And with her firsthand knowledge of criminal behavior, could she hold the key to rescuing a missing college student whose abduction has rocked Boston? When Flora herself disappears, D.D. realizes a far more sinister predator is out there. One who’s determined that this time, Flora Dane will never escape. And now it is all up to D. D. Warren to find her.

Review –

“A kidnapping survivor–turned-vigilante tries to save another young woman while the police do everything they can to save them both.

Flora Dane might look unscathed but she’s permanently scarred from having been abducted while on spring break in Florida seven years earlier by Jacob Ness, a sadistic trucker who held her captive for 472 days, keeping her in a coffin for much of the time when he wasn’t forcing her to have sex with him.

Now back in Boston and schooled in self-defense, Flora is obsessed with kidnapped girls and the nature of survival, a topic she touches on a bit more than necessary in the many flashbacks to her time in captivity. Gardner (Crash & Burn, 2015, etc.) must walk a fine line in accurately evoking the horrors of Flora’s past ordeals without slipping into excessive descriptions of violence; she is not entirely successful.

When Flora thwarts another kidnapping attempt by killing Devon Goulding, her would-be abductor, Gardner regular Sgt. Detective D.D. Warren’s interest is piqued even though she’s meant to be on restricted duty. Then Flora disappears for real, and Warren, along with Dr. Samuel Keynes, the FBI victim specialist from Flora’s original kidnapping, fears it’s related to the kidnapping three months earlier of Stacey Summers, a case Flora followed closely. Gardner alternates between Warren’s investigation into Flora’s disappearance and Flora’s present-day hell at the hands of a new enemy, but the implausibility of the sheer number of kidnappings, among other things, strains credulity.
A gritty, complicated heroine like Flora Dane deserves a better plot than this needlessly complicated story.”Kirkus Reviews

Who cares if the number of kidnappings is implausible , not me. I loved this book the first time I listened to it and even more with each time I re-listen. This time I listened in the car while driving around running mundane errands. Makes the journey so much more enjoyable and like some movies are over the top unbelievable, it’s just a movie, get over it. Kirkus thinks there is a needlessly complicated storyline, who cares, it’s just a book.

I highly recommend this series!