When She Returned by Lucinda Berry

Book Description:

Published: October 15, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

Stars: 5

One woman’s reappearance throws her family into turmoil, exposing dark secrets and the hidden, often devastating truth of family relationships.

Kate Bennett vanished from a parking lot eleven years ago, leaving behind her husband and young daughter. When she shows up at a Montana gas station, clutching an infant and screaming for help, investigators believe she may have been abducted by a cult.

Kate’s return flips her family’s world upside down–her husband is remarried, and her daughter barely remembers her. Kate herself doesn’t look or act like she did before.

While the family tries to help Kate reintegrate into society, they discover truths they’ve been hiding from each other about their own relationships. But they aren’t the only ones with secrets. As the family unravels what happened to Kate, a series of shocking revelations shows that Kate’s return is more sinister than any of them could have imagined.

Review –

Dark and disturbing…

When Kate Bennett vanished from a Target parking lot, her husband and daughter never thought they would see her again. But eleven years later, Kate shows up dehydrated and malnourished, showing signs of severe abuse in Montana holding a baby. With Kate returning, her family’s lives are turned upside down. As they struggle to understand what happened with Kate during those years, shocking revelations come to surface and threaten to destroy their lives. The narrative shifts between past and present and is told from the perspectives of Kate(first wife), Meredith(new wife), and Abbi, (daughter). Kate’s story is chilling and full of dread as she recounts the shocking cruelty from her days/years in “captivity”. The author’s exploration of Kate’s complete entrapment in the cult community is both compelling and disturbing. The pace gets hampered in the middle from the monotony of Kate’s story, but Berry threw in another twist that invests readers’ interest until the shocking culmination and what an ending it is!!!

I listened to this while traveling from Oklahoma to Alabama last month and kept my mind off the HUGE semi-trucks that traverse I-40.

Five star read!

 

The Night Before (Savannah #1) by Lisa Jackson

Book Description:

Published: May 7, 2013

Format: Audio/Audible

Stars: 4

Blood Will Be Spilled. . .

In the dark shadows of a sultry southern town, a serial killer strikes. It’s an act of sinister precision that has happened many times before. . .every victim an offering to a hunger that can never be sated. . .

Night After Night. . .

The next morning, Caitlyn Montgomery Bandeaux wakes covered in blood. But Caitlyn has no memory of the night before, when her estranged husband was brutally murdered like so many others she has known. . .

After Night. . .

Wanted by the police and haunted by horrifying, fragmented memories, Caitlyn turns to Adam Hunt, the town’s new psychologist. But how far can she really trust him? For as a twisted killer strikes again and again, Caitlyn’s about to discover that those who appear the most innocent are usually the most evil. . .

Review –

The Montgomery family are the rich family in town going back a few generations. With that wealth has come “The Montgomery Curse” which has to do with mental illness, incest, womanizing, and mysterious deaths in the family that are occurring in a systematic fashion. So when Caitlyn Montgomery Bandeaux wakes up in her blood-soaked bedroom, she knows something is very wrong. Problem is, she can’t remember where she was or what she did the night before. That becomes a huge problem when she finds out that her estranged husband, Josh Bandeaux, committed suicide or was murdered the night before.

 I figured out one of the plot twists fairly early on but I did not see the twist about who the killer was coming. Totally took me by surprise!

Loved it!

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Book Description:

Published: January 8, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 5

Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave.

Question #1: Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt?

But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking… and what she’s hiding.

Question #2: Have you ever deeply hurt someone you care about?

As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

Question #3: Should a punishment always fit the crime?

An electrifying new novel about doubt, passion, and just how much you can trust someone.

Review –

Struggling Manhattan makeup artist Jessica Farris impulsively decides to chase some quick cash by lying her way into an NYU psychiatrist’s study—of ethics and morality, no less—in this slickly twisty psychological thriller from bestselling authors Hendricks and Pekkanen.

 Still shaky after a disturbing #MeToo encounter with a top theatrical producer that dashed her dream of doing stage makeup, the twenty-eight-year-old laps up the supportive attention from impossibly chic and self-confident Dr. Lydia Shields, whose second-person narrative alternates with Jessica’s first person. So when the therapist starts to enlist her in increasingly dicey real-life role-playing assignments, including trying to pick up specific targets, such as a stranger in a hotel bar, Jess pushes aside her doubts and goes along—until she hears some information too alarming to ignore about the fate of Dr. Shields’s previous protégé. The page-turner’s second half whizzes along at a furious pace, exploiting the dual perspectives for maximum tension. Though some of the gasp-worthy final twists require substantial character flip-flops, and an eye roll or two, it’s a fantastic, suspense filled mystery that I HIGHLY recommend .

 

Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf

Book Description:

Published: April 16, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 5

A gripping thriller about three young girlfriends, a dark obsession and a chilling crime that shakes up a quiet Iowa town, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence .

For twelve-year-old Cora Landry and her friends Violet and Jordyn, it was supposed to be an ordinary sleepover–movies and Ouija and talking about boys. But when they decide to sneak out to go to the abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, little do they know that their innocent games will have dangerous consequences.

Later that night, Cora Landry is discovered on the tracks, bloody and clinging to life, her friends nowhere to be found. Soon their small rural town is thrust into a maelstrom. Who would want to hurt a young girl like Cora–and why? In an investigation that leaves no stone unturned, everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted–not even those closest to Cora.

Before She Was Found is a timely and gripping thriller about friendship and betrayal, about the power of social pressure and the price of needing to fit in. It is about the great lengths a parent will go to protect their child and keep them safe–even if that means burying the truth, no matter the cost.

Review –

After investigating a local urban legend, (which was assigned by a teacher )a twelve year old girl(in sixth grade) is brutally attacked in the author’s latest thriller.

Like nearly every almost teen, Cora struggles in middle school. She’s shy and sheltered and tries every day to navigate the stormy social seas of friendships and crushes, even within the small town of Pitch, Iowa.

When Violet and her family move to Pitch,  from New Mexico, she connects with Cora and helps her begin to come out of her shell, but this is complicated by the on-again, off-again presence of Queen of the Mean Girls, Jordyn. All three girls end up working together on a social studies project to explore the truth behind an urban legend; they choose to research the story of Joseph Wither, a boy supposedly responsible for the disappearances or deaths of several local high school students across the decades.

As they dig deeper into the mystery, Cora begins corresponding online with someone claiming to be Joseph, in a chatroom on a “not so safe” web site. She knows this could be dangerous, but when her classmates find out and mock her for believing in the legend, Cora decides to meet up with Joseph and prove them wrong.

The book opens with an assault and then slowly unravels the events leading up to that act of violence; also functioning as a mystery, it is not until the VERY end that the perpetrator is revealed. There are interesting layers of psychology at work here, but it can be exhausting inhabiting the world of these teenage girls, so concerned about appearances, so protective of their own secrets. 

There  are so many suspects and people of the town are visibly cautious of everyone they meet going about their daily routines. You almost have a notepad handy to keep track of all the twists and turns as the end approaches, and they will blow you away. THE ENDING!!! That’s all I’m going to say.

It is so timely, dealing with bff’s, jealousy, cliques, wanting to so badly to belong, bullying many more things that young girls of today come across on a daily basis.   

This is one book that you HAVE to read!.

Where the Blame Lies by Mia Sheridan

Book Description:

Published: September 13, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

Stars: 4

Abducted.
Terrorized.
Imprisoned.

At nineteen-years-old, college student Josie Stratton was kidnapped by a madman and held shackled for ten months in an abandoned warehouse before she finally escaped her hellish prison.

Eight years later, when the body of a young woman is found chained in the basement of a vacant house, Cincinnati Police Detective Zach Copeland is instantly reminded of the crime committed against Josie Stratton. Zach was just a rookie on the perimeter of that case, but he’s never forgotten the traumatized woman with the haunted eyes.

As more information emerges, the crimes take on an even more sinister similarity. But Josie’s attacker died by suicide. Does the city have a copycat on its hands? A killer who picked up where the original perpetrator left off? Or are they facing something far more insidious?

Josie has spent the last eight years attempting to get her life back on track, but now there’s a very real chance she could be the unknown suspect’s next target. As Zach vows to keep her safe, and Josie finds herself responding to him in a way she hasn’t responded to any man in almost a decade, the investigation takes on an even more complex edge of danger.

As past and present collide, Josie and Zach are thrust toward a shocking and chilling truth. A revelation that threatens not only Josie’s life, but everything she’s been fighting so desperately to reclaim.

Review –

This story is told in the past and present, from the third person (I know some people have trouble connecting to this POV, but I felt the author did a great job in building an emotional connection with the heroine).
In the past . . .
We learn of the horrific abduction and torture of a young college student, Josie Stratton.  This part of the book is haunting in its simplicity.  The author doesn’t delve into the specifics of Josie’s torture, but we know that she is chained to the wall, raped, and nearly starved to within an inch of her life (the assailant drew this part out, making it that much more disturbing).
Given that there is a present that features Josie, alternating with chapters from the past, we can assume that there is at least somewhat of a happy ending for her (she doesn’t die).  But her journey and what she loses along the way, cannot be forgotten.
In the present . . .
About that happy ending I just mentioned . . . forget it.  After another woman is found, this one dead, and the particular details are revealed about her condition, the police are concerned they have a copycat on their hands.  Even though the original kidnapper is dead, they understand that Josie may be at risk once again. And that’s what brings Detective Zach Copeland to Josie’s doorstep.
There is an immediate connection between Josie and Zach that runs deeper than a physical connection.  On Josie’s part, it is the first time she’s found comfort with a man since her abduction.  On Zach’s part, he sees a woman that has survived the worst circumstances and rather than fold under the weight of it all, is fighting to regain her life.  There is admiration for her strength.  Although he doesn’t regard her as weak, he knows he can’t take any risks as more bodies are discovered.
At some point, like the characters in this story, I began to question on whether the right person was identified as the kidnapper in the past.  I think I sorted that out before any big revelation was made, but I had no clue who the serial killer was in the present.  The author does a great job on slowly revealing connections between the victims and ultimately the killer.  I loved the big twist with the killer’s identification, and how the author wraps up the  story.  Very unexpected!
The author did a phenomenal job of building this thriller, with a heroine that you want to cheer for every step of the way.  Whether you are a fan of this author, or this genre, this one is worth checking out!

 

 

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Book Description:

Published: November 5, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 4

From the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone and Watching You comes another page-turning look inside one family’s past as buried secrets threaten to come to light.

Be careful who you let in.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.

Review –

Some family secrets should never see the light of day. In Lisa Jewell’s thrilling, addictive new release, a surprise inheritance sends a young woman on a journey into her own personal history—and what she discovers might be deadly.

Libby Jones always dreamed of learning more about her origins. One day, not long after turning 25, Libby comes home to find an envelope waiting for her, its contents revealing the true identity of her birth parents… and the fact that she has inherited their vast mansion in a posh London neighborhood. Libby’s life suddenly seems to be changing for the better. But by claiming this inheritance, Libby is claiming a darker inheritance, too: a connection to an unsolved crime and an obscure, cult-like society, one which has been waiting, biding its time, until Libby makes herself known.

Meanwhile, in alternating narratives, we’re introduced to Libby’s sister, Lucy Lamb, who’s on the verge of homelessness with her two children in the south of France, and her brother, Henry Lamb, who’s attempting to recall the last few disturbing years with his parents during which they lost their wealth and were manipulated into letting friends move into their home. These friends included the controlling but charismatic David Thomsen, who moved his own wife and two children into the rooms upstairs. Henry also remembers his painful adolescent confusion as he became wildly infatuated with Phineas, David’s teenage son. Meanwhile, Libby connects with Miller Roe, the journalist who covered the story about her family, and the pair work together to find her brother and sister, determine what happened when she was an infant, and uncover who has recently been staying in the vacant house waiting for Libby to return. As the author moves back and forth from the past to the present, the narratives move swiftly toward convergence in her signature style, there are surprising twists, but this one was missing the page-turning magic that I loved in her previous novels. It is still a solid and entertaining read and still deserves a solid four stars.

 

 

 

Fatal Burn (Northwest #2) by Lisa Jackson

Book Description:

Published: March, 2006

Format: Audio/Audible

Three years ago, Shannon Flannery was accused of murdering her wife-beater husband Ryan Carlyle, who was found burnt beyond recognition after a forest fire. At the time, many people believed that Ryan was the Stealth Torcher, a serial arsonist who lit many fires in the area, and suspected that Shannon had gotten back at her husband by beating fire with fire. The suspicions about Ryan’s ‘occupation’ seemed confirmed when the fires stopped following his death. However, although Shannon was acquitted for the murder, she still faced much public speculation over the case, especially from those who believed that she had gotten away with murder.
Now, believing that the worst is finally behind her, Shannon is attempting to get on with life. She has just bought a new property, where she hopes to expand her search-dog training facility.
But then strange things start to happen that make her question her safety, as well as the safety of those that she loves. Fragments of her past come back to haunt her, and mysterious fires begin to crop up, leading Shannon to suspect that somebody is out to get her. Then Travis Settler, an ex-Special Forces agent, arrives on the scene. His teenage daughter Dani has been kidnapped, and he believes that Shannon’s dark past has something to do with her abduction.
With the body count slowly rising, Shannon and Travis have to learn to trust one another, and uncover the dark secrets of the fire-loving serial killer before he seeks his ultimate revenge.

Review –

This novel takes readers into the often-unexplored world of arsonists, and the emotions that they feel when lighting or witnessing a fire. While many people, myself included, cannot fathom the reasons that some people may have for lighting fires that do nothing but cause destruction and chaos, this novel allows readers to view just how some people respond to flames, and makes readers aware of the power that many arsonists experience when dealing with this deadly element.
I am in no way suggesting that all arsonists are murderers, as many do not think of the consequences of their actions. I am simply saying that this novel is a good study of the way that firebugs may react to flame.

The author keeps readers guessing, as she continually introduces new plot twists and scenarios. Travis Settler’s relationship with Shannon adds a bit of romantic spark to the story, and Dani Settler’s determination to survive at the hands of her kidnapper is inspiring, especially considering her age.

This book will keep you guessing and the suspense will burn up the pages (excuse the pun) if reading and heat your ear if listening.

Five stars!

The Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney

Book Description:

Published: August 6, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

The perfect life. The perfect love.

Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss.

She is a miracle of science.

But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives–and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?

Beware the man who calls you . . .

Review –

“The Perfect Wife follows Abbie, who as the story opens, wakes up not knowing who she is or where she is.  Tim, the man who is with her when she wakes up, says that he is her husband and begins to fill in some of the gaps in her memory, telling her that she is an artist and a mother.  What he tells her next is rather unsettling.  Tim, a giant in the Silicon Valley tech industry, informs Abbie that she was in a horrific accident five years ago that took her from him. Through the magic of a technological breakthrough in the field of artificial intelligence, he has managed to bring her back from the dead.  The Abbie we are following in the story is actually an AI robot that is basically a clone of Tim’s real wife.

The technology is such that even many of Abbie’s memories were able to be uploaded into the AI unit. What starts to happen, however, is that the more AI Abbie pieces together about the real life relationship between her alter ego and Tim, the more she questions what Tim’s motives really are and his version of the accident that took Abbie from him.  Is he really just a sad guy who misses his wife and wants to preserve her memory (in a slightly creepy way) or is there more to it?

I really enjoyed the many twists and turns of the story as AI Abbie gets closer and closer to unraveling the mystery of what happened to the real Abbie and what Tim’s role in it was.  There’s plenty of suspense and I just loved the sci fi twist, especially having the story told from the perspective of the AI so that we can see her piecing together all of the key details needed to solve the mystery.  The AI tech speak was interesting too, even if I didn’t necessarily understand all of it or wholly buy into the idea of being able to upload memories into an AI unit. It was still fascinating to even consider the possibility.  I also liked the exploration of the moral implications – would such a thing even be considered ethical since you’re basically artificially cloning a person without his or her consent?

I also liked that in addition to the science fiction angle and the mystery/psychological thriller angle, the story has even more layers that deal with marriage and family.  The author does an especially nice job of realistically depicting all of the challenges that come with raising a child who is on the autism spectrum.

If a psychological thriller with a sci fi twist and a wholly original plot sounds like something you would enjoy, J. P. Delaney’s The Perfect Wife should be on your must-read list.” thebookishlibra

Deep Freeze (Northwest #1) by Lisa Jackson

Book Description:

Published: October 29, 2013

Format: Audio/Audible

HER BIGGEST FAN…
When she wakes up, she’s very cold. Colder than she’s ever been in her life. She can’t move or speak. And then she sees him. The one who took her. And before she dies, she wishes she could scream…

IS ABOUT TO BECOME …
Former movie star Jenna Hughes left Hollywood for an isolated farm in Oregon to get away from fame. But someone has followed her – an obsessed fan whose letters are personal and deeply disturbing.
And while Jenna’s already shaken up by what she’s seen on paper, she’d be terrified if she knew what Sheriff Shane Carter is investigating. It’s a shocking case that started with the discovery of a dead woman in the woods. Now two more women are missing, one of whom bears a striking resemblance to Jenna…

HER WORST NIGHTMARE …
As a winter storm bears down on the pacific northwest, a merciless killer’s grisly work has only just begun. And Jenna is Getting Closer to meeting her biggest fan.. one who wants nothing more than to see her dead..

Review –

The story was well thought-out and the characters well-developed. I could not guess the killer until the author revealed him to me!

The beginning was slow, but eventually started to pick up. I actually appreciated the slow start, though, because it gave me a chance to get to know the characters, relationships, and setting. Plus, it made the escalation at the end all that more terrifying.

The killer’s point of view was fantastic because it was both believable and disturbing. I kept wondering, “how can a person actually think like this?”

Jackson executed third person point of view in a way where it almost felt like first person. I enjoyed reading different character’s thoughts and digging through their mind so that I could better understand the characters.

There is a sex scene, which I don’t think I’ve seen in a Lisa Jackson book. While it wasn’t necessary to the plot, it was nicely done and added to the tension between the two leads.

You can not go wrong with a book by Lisa Jackson, so if you’ve never read anything by her, please give one a try. You will not be disappointed !

 

Starter House by Sonja Condit

Book Description:

Published: december 31, 2013

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In the vein of Heart-Shaped Box and The Thirteenth Tale, Starter House is a haunting and skillfully told debut novel about a newlywed couple and their first home — a home that seems to be haunted by a very malicious ghost.

Lacey Miszlak grew up homeless; her crazy mother dragged her from one terrible living situation to the next. But now she thinks the pieces of her life have finally come together. She’s pregnant with her first child, and she and her husband Eric have moved into the home of their dreams. She knows soon its beautiful sunlit rooms will be filled with the joy of the new family she will build there.

But there’s a strange darkness on the stairway and an odd little boy who won’t leave Lacey alone, and soon she’s forced to realize that a danger she never suspected is lurking in the hallways of her beautiful new home. She’s going to have to solve a decades-old mystery to save her family from an evil that has lingered in wait for them for years.

Review –

In Condit’s creepy debut, a young couple’s dream home turns out to be haunted.

The cottage at 571 Forrester Lane in the Southern town of Greeneburg is perfect for Lacey and Eric Miszlak. She’s pregnant and wants to be near the best schools; he wants a 20-minute commute to his uncle’s law firm. Lacey brushes aside the spooked reaction of their broker (who knows more than she’s telling) but discovers after they move in that the house harbors a ghost: Drew, a needy little boy who asks her to be his mother. Lacey, a former elementary school teacher, prides herself on being good with difficult children, but she quickly learns to fear Drew’s rages and his hostility toward her unborn child. “The thing in the house. It eats babies,” blurts out the broker’s daughter. The trouble started in 1972, when Andrew Halliday killed his wife, three of his four children and himself. Only Andrew Junior survived the massacre; he’s changed his name to Lex Hall and has retained Eric in a custody battle over his young daughter. Yes, it’s a lot of coincidences to swallow, and Drew’s ability to travel as far afield as Australia seems more convenient than likely even within the parameters of a ghost story, but Condit paints such a convincing portrait of the Miszlaks’ tension-riddled marriage and does such a good job of escalating the menace in Lacey’s encounters with Drew that readers won’t care much about probability. The novel has unusually strong characterizations as well, in particular the depiction of Lacey’s New Age–y mother, Ella, who proves to be stronger and more protective than her daughter could understand in childhood. Eric too, controlling and overcautious though he is, comes through with flying colors in the violent denouement at the top of the stairs that have seen so many previous deaths.

Good, scary fun, packed with emotional nuance.” Kirkus Reviews

Fantastic read!