The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle

Book Description:

Published: December 27, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 5

Even the perfect marriage has its dark side… 

Iris and Will’s marriage is as close to perfect as it can be: a large house in a nice Atlanta neighborhood, rewarding careers and the excitement of trying for their first baby. But on the morning Will leaves for a business trip to Orlando, Iris’s happy world comes to an abrupt halt. Another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board, and according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers on this plane.

Grief-stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding. But as time passes and there is still no sign of Will, she reluctantly accepts that he is gone. Still, Iris needs answers. Why did Will lie about where he was going? What is in Seattle? And what else has he lied about? As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to find out what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she receives will shock her to her very core.

Review – 

On the day after Iris and Will’s seventh wedding anniversary, they’re ready to start trying for a baby. But all is not as it seems.

From the outside, it looks like they have a perfect marriage. Friends and family admire their beautiful home, great jobs, and passionate commitment to each other. All this changes when Will dies on a plane flight he wasn’t supposed to be on.

Scheduled to be en route to Florida to make a presentation at a cybersecurity conference, his name is found on the passenger manifest of a plane bound for Seattle after it crashes in a field. Looking through his files to try to figure out what he was up to, Iris finds a new will and $2.5 million in life insurance policies Will had taken out only months earlier. At a memorial service for the crash victims, she meets Corban, who introduces himself as a friend of Will’s from the gym. According to Corban, Will was on his way to a job interview in Seattle, but the office he was interviewing with has never heard of him. Will doesn’t seem to be hiding a secret lover, but nothing Iris believed about her husband turns out to be true. Iris proves herself a relentless investigator in a case that takes her to Will’s hometown to solve the mystery of whom she married. High school classmates present a very different—and chilling—picture of Will. The suspense builds rapidly from there as Iris pulls back Will’s layers of deception and solves the mystery of what the circumstances of his death meant for their marriage.

Another  compelling adventure from Kimberly Belle!

The Last Breath by Kimberly Belle

Book Description:

Published: September 30, 2014

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 5

One woman will stop at nothing to discover the devastating truth about her family…

Chasing disasters around the globe keeps humanitarian aid worker Gia Andrews away from her own ground zero. Now, after sixteen years in jail for the murder of her stepmother in small-town Tennessee, Gia’s father has come home to die of cancer. And she’s responsible for his care.

Resuming the role of daughter to the town’s most infamous murderer means confronting the past she’s spent over a decade avoiding. But in the end, the truth about what really happened may have deadlier consequences than she could have ever anticipated…

Review –

Have you ever thought that you would give anything to know the truth about a situation and then when you do find that truth, wish you hadn’t? That, for me sums up this debut novel by Kimberly Belle.

This book is a thought provoking dramatic undertaking that takes a decade old crime and uses it to dissect and examine the characters who all were affected by it.  While the mystery is a strong base the story is built on, I found the character dynamics far more prevalent. A trio of siblings, torn apart by their stepmother’s death and father’s conviction of the crime must come together and finally deal with the past and their own feelings towards their father and each other. The author combines a blend of humor,  sorrow, and compassion as she tells us a story of love, loss, jealousy, guilt, and forgiveness. Using the past and the present, Belle guides us down a long twisting road, letting us form our own opinions about what happened as we listen to the victims recollections of what happened and the accounts of all those left behind to question and wonder.

Fantastic read!

 

 

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.

 

 

 

A Better Man (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #15) by Louise Penny

Book Description:

Published: August 27, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Catastrophic spring flooding, blistering attacks in the media, and a mysterious disappearance greet Chief Inspector Armand Gamache as he returns to the Surete du Quebec in the latest novel by #1 New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny.

It’s Gamache’s first day back as head of the homicide department, a job he temporarily shares with his previous second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Flood waters are rising across the province. In the middle of the turmoil a father approaches Gamache, pleading for help in finding his daughter.

As crisis piles upon crisis, Gamache tries to hold off the encroaching chaos, and realizes the search for Vivienne Godin should be abandoned. But with a daughter of his own, he finds himself developing a profound, and perhaps unwise, empathy for her distraught father.

Increasingly hounded by the question, how would you feel…, he resumes the search.

As the rivers rise, and the social media onslaught against Gamache becomes crueler, a body is discovered. And in the tumult, mistakes are made.

In the next novel in this “constantly surprising series that deepens and darkens as it evolves” (New York Times Book Review), Gamache must face a horrific possibility, and a burning question.

What would you do if your child’s killer walked free?

Review –

She has done it again. With a vengeance. Take the same backwater in Québec, the same core of main characters, and write fifteen crime stories with that. You will probably end up with predictable plots. But Louise Penny doesn’t. Not ever. A Better Man is here to prove it. Once more.

The  author is a mystery in herself. Once again, she managed to deliver a unique book, with an original plot. And red herrings. And many twists and layers. Layers that keep getting more involved. If her last book dealt with drugs in the city, this one focuses on domestic violence. And violence through social media.

Fans of Three Pines have a new chance to enjoy Penny’s great art at describing characters, the depth of human emotions, as well as landscape:

  The sky was grey and stretch and threatened rain. Or sleet. Ice pellets or snow. The dirt road was covered in slush and mud. There were patches of snow on the sodden grass. Villagers out walking their dogs were clumping around in rubber boots and wrapped in layers of clothing, hoping to keep April away from their skin and out of their bones.

     and   

     Woodsmoke drifted from the old fieldstone, brick, clapboard homes. A signal to some higher power. Send help. Send heat. Send a real spring and not this crapfest of slush and freezing, teasing days. Days of snow and warmth.

Armand Gamache does not hurry. He takes time to look, feel, and think. The writing style itself, with many short sentences and pauses, beautifully conveys the same atmosphere.

And yet, when the time is ripe, the book also contains nerve-wracking suspenseful scenes, where events rush too quickly at the protagonists, with the violence of the Bella Bella river threatening to engulf the nearby villages.

Lovers of this series will also enjoy how the author integrated elements of previous books. And of course, we meet the same characters. Including the poet Ruth. And her duck Rosa—featured with short refrains, another nice little touch that helps keep all the threads together.

Reading another book by Louise Penny is like spending some annual time with good old friends. And age and experience have the potential to make them better. The only bitterness to it, is that we’ll have to wait next year to meet them again. Write faster, please !!!

Five 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

The Last Widow (Will Trent #9) by Karin Slaughter

Book Description:

Published: August 20, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

New York Times bestselling author Karin Slaughter brings back Will Trent and Sara Linton in this superb and timely thriller full of devious twists, disturbing secrets, and shocking surprises you won’t see coming

A mysterious kidnapping

On a hot summer night, a scientist from the Centers for Disease Control is grabbed by unknown assailants in a shopping center parking lot. Vanished into thin air, the authorities are desperate to save the doctor.

A devastating explosion

One month later, the serenity of a sunny Sunday afternoon is shattered by the boom of a ground-shaking blast—followed by another seconds later. One of Atlanta’s busiest and most important neighborhood’s has been bombed—the location of Emory University, two major hospitals, the FBI headquarters, and the CDC.

A diabolical enemy

Medical examiner Sara Linton and her partner Will Trent, an investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, rush to the scene—and into the heart of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy thousands of innocent lives. When the assailants abduct Sara, Will goes undercover to save her and prevent a massacre—putting his own life on the line for the woman and the country he loves.

Review –

“Pediatrician/medical examiner Sara Linton’s path to marrying Will Trent, of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, runs into apocalyptic obstacles only Slaughter could devise.

To begin with, Sara’s mother objects so strenuously to Will that she won’t even utter his name. But her opposition can’t compete with the carnage that erupts when Sara and Will (The Kept Woman, 2016, etc.), hearing the sounds of a bomb near Emory University, rush to the scene and encounter along the way the aftermath of a three-car collision. Stopping to help, they soon smell something amiss, but not soon enough to prevent them from being overpowered and separated by the supposed victims. Will is beaten to the ground; Sara is whisked off in a car whose occupants include Michelle Spivey, a scientist with the Centers for Disease Control who was abducted from under her young daughter’s nose a month ago. Arriving at the mountain encampment of the Invisible Patriot Army, a paramilitary cadre determined to make America white again, Sara is first forced to treat the wounds of the men who kidnapped her and then asked by IPA leader Dash to remain so that she can treat an outbreak of measles that’s swept through the children in the camp, including Dash’s daughter, whose mother is Gwen Novak, the daughter of Martin Novak, whose history of anti-government bank robberies has made him a high-value federal prisoner. As Will schemes to infiltrate the camp disguised as a new recruit, Sara is dismayed to find that no matter what she does, the children she’s tending keep getting sicker and sicker. Even the most ardent fans of Slaughter’s white-hot thrillers (Pieces of Her, 2018, etc.) will be shocked and horror-stricken by the outrage Dash has planned.

All the emotional intensity Slaughter’s readers expect, now focused on a diabolical domestic terrorist. Don’t say you weren’t warned.” Kirkus Reviews

Fantastic read from one of my favorite authors!

 

The Toll (Arc of the Scythe #3) by Neal Shusterman

Book Description:

Published: November 5, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

It’s been three years since Rowan and Citra disappeared; since Scythe Goddard came into power; since the Thunderhead closed itself off to everyone but Grayson Tolliver.

In this pulse-pounding conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy, constitutions are tested and old friends are brought back from the dead.

Review –

“The sins of the founding scythes now reap terrible rewards in this trilogy conclusion.

The Thunderhead—a benevolent, nigh-omniscient, nanite-controlling artificial intelligence—still runs the world but speaks only to Greyson Tolliver. Now deified as the Toll, prophet of the Tonists, Greyson attempts to advise a populace abruptly cut off from the Thunderhead’s gentle guidance. For the scythes—allegedly compassionate and objective executioners whose irreversible gleanings control the post-mortal population—the Thunderhead’s been silent for centuries, but recent scythedom unrest now tests the Thunderhead’s noninterference. Untouchable and unhinged, Scythe Goddard, self-appointed Overblade, encourages unrestricted and prejudiced gleanings. Formerly formidable opponents Scythe Anastasia (Citra Terranova) and scythe-killer Scythe Lucifer (Rowan Damisch) are now fugitives, saved from the sea but pursued by Goddard’s allies. Even in a post-national, post-racial world, Capt. Jerico’s meteorologically influenced gender fluidity surprises some, but as Goddard’s bigotry indicates, discrimination plagues even the post-mortals. Shusterman (Dry, 2018, etc.) wryly unravels organized religion and delivers a scathing takedown of political demagogues. Yet the whirlwind of narrators, sly humor, and action scenes never obscures the series’ central question: If most death is impermanent, and age can be reset, what’s the meaning of life?

Long but strong, a furiously paced finale that reaches for the stars. (Science fiction. 14-adult)” Kirkus Reviews

I was very disappointed with the final install of the Arc of the Scythe series. It was unexpected and leaves room for future stories if the author wants to expand, which I hope he does not.

Believe Me by J.P. Delaney

Book Description:

Published: July 24, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A struggling actor, a Brit in America without a green card, Claire needs work and money to survive. Then she gets both. But nothing like she expected.

Claire agrees to become a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. Hired to entrap straying husbands, she must catch them on tape with their seductive propositions. The rules? Never hit on the mark directly. Make it clear you’re available, but he has to proposition you, not the other way around. The firm is after evidence, not coercion. The innocent have nothing to hide.

Then the game changes.

When the wife of one of Claire’s targets is violently murdered, the cops are sure the husband is to blame. Desperate to catch him before he kills again, they enlist Claire to lure him into a confession.

Claire can do this. She’s brilliant at assuming a voice and an identity. For a woman who’s mastered the art of manipulation, how difficult could it be to tempt a killer into a trap? But who is the decoy . . . and who is the prey?

Review –

“A disgraced British actress named Claire Wright comes to the United States, sans green card, looking for work. Her agent gives her the bad news. “The days we took the huddled masses yearning to be free are long over.” She ends up working for a divorce lawyer, setting up stings to entrap unfaithful husbands by pretending to be a high-priced hooker. Then one of her prospective clients is found dead beneath a bloody sheet in a hotel room. Primary suspect: the woman’s husband, a Columbia University professor and the translator of Baudelaire’s book of S&M poetry, Les Fleurs du Mal. The police suspect he’s a serial killer, with previous Baudelaire-inspired murders under his belt, ha ha. They have Claire go undercover to lure this guy into a confession. It’s the role of her career, one she throws herself into so wholeheartedly she loses track of what is real and what is masquerade, ending up madly in love with her target. After many twists and pseudo-reveals, she ends up first in a mental institution and then with a starring role in My Heart Laid Bare, the suspected killer’s off-Broadway show based on a nasty incident in the life of Baudelaire. “Who is the real Claire Wright? The one sitting here with her precious green card and permit in front of her, exchanging pleasantries with the man who provided it? Or the one who fell for the darkness she sensed deep inside the only man she couldn’t seduce?” An unreliable-narrator setup works best when the character believes her own story or is lying intentionally to other characters in the book. When it mostly means that the narrator deliberately conceals key facts from the reader for no purpose other than to create confusion and suspense, it feels a little cheesy. The author confesses in an afterword that she wrote and published this book decades prior to last year’s bestseller, The Girl Before, but it didn’t do very well, so she’s trying again with a rewrite.

The best parts of this book were written in the middle of the 19th century by Charles Baudelaire.” Kirkus Review

Didn’t care for this book at all. It was too convoluted and I gave it three stars.

Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle

Book Description:

Published: June 25, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

From the bestselling author of The Marriage Lie and Three Days Missing comes a riveting new novel of suspense about a woman who, in a fight for survival, must decide just how far she’ll go to escape the person she once loved

Beth Murphy is on the run…

For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning–one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought, because one small slip and her violent husband will find her.

Sabine Hardison is missing…

A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she’s taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play.

As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine’s carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home, and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that’s certain is that someone is lying and the truth won’t stay buried for long.

Review –

A woman is on the run with cash, a burner phone, and plans that have taken ten months to build. But can she escape?

Beth Murphy, from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, has planned every detail of her departure meticulously; from her new name to her new appearance and car, she is leaving nothing to chance. But the person she is fleeing continues to be an overwhelming presence in her mind, and she expects to see him hiding in every shadow. He has trained her well through years of abuse, and she knows that he will find her—the only question is when.

Her jumpiness during the days and terror-soaked nights are hardly going unnoticed, and it becomes obvious to her new co-workers and rooming-house neighbors that she is not who she says she is. From her new life as a cleaner in Atlanta, Beth obsessively tracks the media coverage of a missing woman from Pine Bluff, Sabine Hardison, and the police’s search for her. Sabine is a successful realtor who disappeared one afternoon while her husband was away on business, but as the police dig deeper, it becomes clear that this was not a happy marriage. The author switches between three points of view as the story unfolds, giving insights into Beth and her efforts to re-create herself; Sabine’s husband, Jeffrey, who is picking up the pieces left behind by his wife’s disappearance while coming to terms with the aggressive publicity around his marriage’s shortcomings; and the detective, Marcus, who has been assigned to find out where Sabine has gone. Is Beth actually Sabine? Is she not? Are those continuity errors the whisper of red herrings or just the different ways multiple characters perceive the same events? An unexpected ending hinges on information missing from the story.

Everything is not quite as it seems and the ending will leave your mouth hanging open. Fantastic read/listen.

Five stars!