Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

 

Book Description:

Published: July 30, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In this game, even winning can be deadly…

Amy Whey is proud of her ordinary life and the simple pleasures that come with it—teaching diving lessons, baking cookies for new neighbors, helping her best friend, Charlotte, run their local book club. Her greatest joy is her family: her devoted professor husband, her spirited fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, her adorable infant son. And, of course, the steadfast and supportive Charlotte. But Amy’s sweet, uncomplicated life begins to unravel when the mysterious and alluring Angelica Roux arrives on her doorstep one book club night.

Sultry and magnetic, Roux beguiles the group with her feral charm. She keeps the wine flowing and lures them into a game of spilling secrets. Everyone thinks it’s naughty, harmless fun. Only Amy knows better. Something wicked has come her way—a she-devil in a pricey red sports car who seems to know the terrible truth about who she is and what she once did.

When they’re alone, Roux tells her that if she doesn’t give her what she asks for, what she deserves, she’s going to make Amy pay for her sins. One way or another.

To protect herself and her family and save the life she’s built, Amy must beat the devil at her own clever game, matching wits with Roux in an escalating war of hidden pasts and unearthed secrets. Amy knows the consequences if she can’t beat Roux. What terrifies her is everything she could lose if she wins.

A diabolically entertaining tale of betrayal, deception, temptation, and love filled with dark twists leavened by Joshilyn Jackson’s trademark humor, Never Have I Ever explores what happens when the transgressions of our past come back with a vengeance.

Review –

It was supposed to be book club as usual: a group of suburban mothers gathering to talk over a glass of wine or two and then going home to bed. But when new neighbor Angelica Roux shows up at hostess Amy’s door, it doesn’t take long for all hell to break loose. The booze flows freely, and soon the women are engaged in a game: What is the worst thing you did today? This week? This month? In your life? There are many women in the gathering with secrets to protect, but none more than Amy, who, as a teenager, committed a terrible crime that almost destroyed her. Saved by her love for diving, and then by meeting her husband and stepdaughter, Amy has worked hard to build a normal, stable life; she even has a new baby.

Angelica has come to threaten all of this; she clearly knows about Amy’s past and will expose her to her loved ones if Amy doesn’t pay her. As Amy tries desperately to outscheme Angelica, she also realizes just how much she has to fight for—and what she might be willing to do to keep her family safe and her secrets buried.

This is a fantastic book and once you start reading or listening(as in my case), you can’t bear to stop.

There are so many twists and turns. Just when i thought I knew the motive for all of Roux’s actions, the author throws a curve ball that puts the story in a totally different direction. No spoilers, but you don’t get to the true crux of the plot until the end and what an ending it is!

Five stars!

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I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

Book Description:

Published: April 23, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

l Know Who You Are is the brilliant tale of two stories. One is about Aimee Sinclair—well-known actress on the verge of being full-on famous. If you saw her, you’d think you knew her. One day towards the near-end of her shoot on her latest film, Aimee comes home from filming to find her husband’s cell phone and wallet on the dining room table. He never goes anywhere without them. But he’s nowhere to be found. She’s not too concerned—they had a huge fight the night before. They both said things they didn’t mean. He might have done things he didn’t mean, things she can’t forget. Even though she has a history of supposedly forgetting. After all, she’s a very good actress.

The next morning she goes for her morning run and then goes to her favorite coffee shop. But her card is denied. When she calls the bank they say her account has been emptied of $10,000. She immediately suspects her husband. But they say no, it was Aimee herself who closed out the account. And thus begins a bizarre rabbit hole into which Aimee finds herself falling where nothing is at it seems.

Alternating with Aimee’s story is that of a little girl who wandered away from home. We always tell our kids not to talk to strangers or bad things will happen. Well, bad things happen.

In I Know Who You Are, Alice Feeney proves that she is a master at brilliantly complicated plots and twists after twists.

Review –

Usually when a debut author writes a second book I don’t really expect it to be as good as the first, BUT, Alice Feeney has written a second book that, in my opinion, out shines the previous Sometimes I Lie.

Holy H*ll !!! Just finished I Know Who You Are and my head is spinning.

Aimee,(the unreliable narrator) an actress whose husband has disappeared after an argument. The police notice she’s not very upset about it. Is she being gaslighted? Does she drink too much? Is she a killer? Yes, to all three.

Aimee is a wounded and insecure soul, born Ciara to a poor family in Ireland. Her mother died in childbirth, and both Ciara and her alcoholic father blame her for killing her mother.

Five-year-old Ciara runs away and is kidnapped by a manipulative numbers-runner named Maggie, who renames her Aimee, after another child who died in unclear circumstances (unsolved mysteries abound in this book). Maggie proceeds to treat Ciara/Aimee with such depraved cruelty that she makes Cinderella’s stepmother look like Mother Teresa.

Two episodes, in particular, stand out: One involves a McDonald’s Happy Meal that will make the treat hard to choke down on your next trip to the drive-through, and another involves a pet hamster and a deep fryer. Need I say MORE?

Aimee survives life with Maggie and John, her predatory partner in crime, until a robbery attempt ends in a bloodbath. Fast forward twenty years, and Aimee is a rising actress, able to shape-shift her way through various roles – an opportunity for the author to weigh in on the familiar symbolism of the masks we wear each day.

The ending isn’t a just twist, it’s a triple axel and depending on how seriously you take things you will be appalled by the “yucky” or “eewww” factor. Myself, I read for my pleasure and enjoyment and I always enjoy a well written book, no matter the subject matter or ending.

Be aware that there may be triggers for some because included in the book child abuse, marital rape and incest.

I gave the book 4 3/4 stars because there were too many questions left unanswered and I won’t spoil the book by saying what they were.

 

The Boy and His Ribbon (The Ribbon Duet #1) by Pepper Winters

Book Description:

Published: April 1, 2018 

Format: E-Book/OverDrive

What do you do when you meet your soul mate? No wait…that’s too easy. What do you do when you meet your soul mate and have to spend a lifetime loving him in secret?
I’ll tell you what you do.
You lie.”

REN

Ren was eight when he learned that love doesn’t exist–that the one person who was supposed to adore him only cared how much he was worth.
His mother sold him and for two years, he lived in terror.
But then…he ran.
He thought he’d run on his own. Turned out, he took something of theirs by accident and it became the one thing he never wanted and the only thing he ever needed.

DELLA

I was young when I fell in love with him, when he switched from my world to my everything.
My parents bought him for cheap labour, just like they had with many other kids, and he had the scars to prove it.
At the start, he hated me, and I could understand why.
For years he was my worst enemy, fiercest protector, and dearest friend.
But by the end…he loved me.
The only problem was, he loved me in an entirely different way to the way I loved him.
And slowly, my secret drove us apart.

A True Coming Of Age Story.

Review –

This is the story of Ren and Della through the span of ten years. How they met, what they faced, how they protected each other. Every low and every up. Every hope and every despair. Every moment of innocent joy and every lust filled thoughts.

Told in dual POV with Della writing her story for a school assignment it had an enthralling quality.

But, you have to go into this story with an open mind. You have to believe in something that’s hardly believable. Don’t shy away. Don’t be picky and think it’s just impossible. Just go with the flow and let the story lull you into its depth.

The reader witnesses  Ren going from a young boy to a man and Della from baby to young woman. All this through incredibly harsh circumstances. It’s about taboo feelings and angst that sometimes has no place to go. 

 It ends on a cliffhanger or rather an open ending or an ending that you want to change and I can’t wait for the sequel.

The Prisoner(Criminal & Captives #1)by Annika Martin and Skye Warren

Book Description:

Published: October 22, 2014

Format: E-Book

He seethes with raw power the first time I see him—pure menace and rippling muscles in shackles. He’s dangerous. He’s wild. He’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

So I hide behind my prim glasses and my book like I always do, because I have secrets too. Then he shows up in the prison writing class I have to teach, and he blows me away with his honesty. He tells me secrets in his stories, and it’s getting harder to hide mine. I shiver when he gets too close, with only the cuffs and the bars and the guards holding him back. At night I can’t stop thinking about him in his cell.

But that’s the thing about an animal in a cage—you never know when he’ll bite. He might use you to escape. He might even pull you into a forest and hold a hand over your mouth so you can’t call for the cops. He might make you come so hard, you can’t think.

And you might crave him more than your next breath.

Review –

This is definitely a dark, gritty romance. Grayson is in prison for killing a cop (he was framed) and Abigail is there working on a writing assignment for a college class. When Grayson figures out that she is intent on eventually publishing some of the inmates stories as part of an online journal it doesn’t take him long to bribe his way into her class. He needs to get word out to his crew in order to facilitate a break out. Abby is buttoned-up, all prim and proper, and also completely fascinated by the big, hardened prisoner. Grayson is dangerous and her attraction to him leaves her jumpy and confused. But she is determined to finish the assignment.

Predictably, during his prison break, Grayson takes Abby hostage.  She is terrified of what he is going to do to her, but their fascination for each other continues to build. If there isn’t a content warning, there should be because  there are several instances where Grayson’s sexual advances aren’t welcome and even one scene  where Abby has been drugged by Grayson so she can sleep and isn’t completely in control of all of her faculties. Regardless, Abby does slowly come to trust him as she learns of this history and the horror he lived through as  a child. And it is horrific. Her back story is also pretty terrible and in a way made me believe that these two scarred people might be made for each other.

There is a violent bloody beating where Grayson also loses himself and there are twists and turns and a huge change of heart from one of the supporting characters, Stone. It was dark, edgy and a true page turner.

I loved it. If you like DARK AND EDGY, this one is for you.

The sequel, Hostage, has just been released. It is Stone’s story and I can’t wait.

 

No One Left to Tell (Baltimore #2) by Karen Rose

Book Description:

Published: June 2012

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A car crashes in front of rookie PI Paige Holden’s home. And suddenly, she finds one of her pro bono clients dying in her arms—from a gunshot wound. With her last breath, the woman whispers cryptic words into her ear and hands her a blood-smeared flash drive.

Five years ago, State’s Attorney Grayson Smith put a murderer behind bars. But when Paige Holden shares the flash drive with him, its contents cast doubts on the conviction—and lead him and Paige into a world of blackmail, dark secrets, and a decades-long string of murders. An investigation they’ll survive only by trusting each other—and the truth.

Review –

Bestselling author Karen Rose returns to Baltimore for this steamy follow-up to 2011’s You Belong to Me. Fledgling PI Paige Holden and Assistant State’s Attorney Grayson Smith start on opposite sides before becoming a formidable team delving into the deadly secrets behind a murder conviction. Holden hears the last words of a dying Elena Muñoz, who tells Holden cops were chasing her as she presses a flash drive into the PI’s hands. Elena’s husband, Ramon, a gardener, was framed for the murder of Crystal Jones during a party given by Rex McCloud at the estate of his grandfather, retired state senator James McCloud. Elena’s evidence and an attempt on Holden’s life prevented by Smith launch the pair on a mission for justice. Both Holden and Smith have carefully guarded secrets that keep their passions smoldering before bursting into flames. Rose’s deft combination of hot heroine and cool hero should please her many fans.
Lots of action and many unbelievable  near death attempts on Paige and Grayson but all in all it made for a great read.
 

Pitch Dark by A.M. Wilson and Alex Grayson

Book Description:

Published: September 15, 2017

Format: E-Book

One girl disappeared. After fifteen years, her cold lifeless body was found on the damp forest floor. Not an inch of her was unmarked by the horrors she endured. Alone, malnourished, abused in horrific ways; this was how she died.

One girl was found walking the streets, covered in dirt and scars. She had no memory of who she was, where she came from, or what happened to her. Even though the marks on her body attested to years of heinous abuse, her strength shone through at every turn.

Revenge and justice were sworn.

Years of searching brought up nothing but dead ends. Detective Niko James was too late to save his childhood friend, but he vows not to let down another.

The clock is ticking and the trail is pitch dark.

Review –
PitchDark is a very dark and gritty thriller, one that was difficult to read at times.  It’s intense, heartbreaking, edgy, and raw.  So be aware, it’s very explicit with the details of  child abuse.
It’s been fifteen years since Niko’s childhood friend, Aislin, has disappeared and in his heart he knew she was abducted while his parents and the police just thought she ran off.
A body is found in the woods covered with scars, old and new, and open sores, cuts, scrapes, and old and new bruises. She is identified as Aislin. Niko is heart-broken and angry because he hadn’t rescued her from such torture.
Later a girl is found walking the streets, barefoot and with similar markings on her body as the dead girl and she has no memory of who she is or her previous life.
While Niko helps to find out who this girl is and who did this to her (because he’s positive the same individual killed Aislin)he begins to get close to her and develops feelings he knows he shouldn’t.
I’m not going much further with the story because it would be too easy to include spoilers. Just surface it to say that it’s well written with engaging characters. Sometimes it seems draw out and repetitive but even that didn’t take away from the storyline although because of that I only gave it four and a half stars.
Excellent who-dun-it but there are many triggers and it’s not a romance so if you are easily disgusted and traumatized; stay away from this book!

A Drink Before The War (Kenzie and Gennaro #1) by Dennis LeHane

Book Description:

Published: September 15, 2003

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Kenzie and Gennaro are private investigators in the blue-collar neighborhoods and ghettos of South Boston-they know it as only natives can. Working out of an old church belfry, Kenzie and Gennaro take on a seemingly simple assignment for a prominent politician: to uncover the whereabouts of Jenna Angeline, a black cleaning woman who has allegedly stolen confidential state documents.
Finding Jenna, however, is easy compared to staying alive once they’ve got her. The investigation escalates, implicating members of Jenna’s family and rival gang leaders while uncovering extortion, assassination, and child prostitution extending from bombed-out ghetto streets to the highest levels of government.

Review –

I was lucky enough to find the audio version of this, the first in the Kenzie and Gennaro series on OverDrive and it was fantastic.

A Drink Before The War is the story of Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro, private investigators who have been hired by a politician to find some missing documents believed to have been stolen by a cleaning lady. Their job is to find the cleaning lady (who has gone missing), recover the documents and return them to the politician. Although it sounds like a pretty cut-and-dried case, things start getting complicated when the cleaning lady is located and she lets the PIs in on a secret that starts up one of the bloodiest gang wars that the Boston area has ever seen.

Before they know it, Patrick and Angie are right in the middle of the action, and both of the rival gangs want them dead. To complicate matters, Patrick is still trying to come to terms with the ghost of his abusive father, and Angie goes home every night to a husband who has a tendency to leave her with black eyes and bloody lips. Over the course of the novel, Patrick and Angie must find a way to defeat their personal demons while desperately searching for a way out of the death sentence they seem to be facing.

A Drink Before the War is a  well-paced thriller that not only features an excellent and thought-provoking plot, but also interesting and deep characters. It’s no wonder that Lehane has gone on to write more novels featuring Patrick and Angie. They are certainly two of the best protagonists featured in a current mystery series.

Loved it and will continue to read this series.

 

The Stonecutter (Fjallbacka #3) by Camilla Lackberg

Book Description:

Published: May 1, 2012

The remote resort town of Fjällbacka has seen its share of tragedy, though perhaps none worse than that of the little girl found in a fisherman’s net. But this was no accidental drowning . . .

Local detective Patrik Hedström has just become a father. It’s his grim task to discover who could be behind the murder of a child both he and his partner Erica knew well. What he does not know is how this case will reach into the dark heart of Fjällbacka, spanning generations, ripping aside its idyllic façade, perhaps forever.
Review –

This is an amazing story dating back to 1923 and a poor stonecutter, who really has a minor (in my estimation) role in the story, but it is true to say that without him there would have been NO story.

The story shows how a lack of kindness to children and repeated punishment and neglect can turn them into hateful evil adults and that’s what happens here.

There are surprise twists around every corner and keeps you turning the pages or listening with a closer ear (as in my case). This book is translated from the Swedish and the narrator is wonderful at correctly pronouncing the names of the characters and the places of the region.

Wonderful mystery and a very pleasant read.

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Losing Hope (Hopeless #2) by Colleen Hoover

Book Description:

Published: July 8, 2013

In Hopeless, Sky left no secret unearthed, no feeling unshared, and no memory forgotten, but Holder’s past remained a mystery.

Still haunted by the little girl he let walk away, Holder has spent his entire life searching for her in an attempt to finally rid himself of the crushing guilt he has felt for years. But he could not have anticipated that the moment they reconnect, even greater remorse would overwhelm him…

Sometimes in life, if we wish to move forward, we must first dig deep into our past and make amends. In Losing Hope, bestselling author Colleen Hoover reveals what was going on inside Holder’s head during all those hopeless moments—and whether he can gain the peace he desperately needs.

Review –

This is Holder’s story. 

We see a lot of his past – it’s heart breaking and devastating but we live it with him. I went through everything with him. I felt his anger, his loss, his fears. When he fucked up, I cringed. When he was happy, my heart overflowed.

There were scenes that gave me  chills – from head to toe.  There were moments where I just closed my eyes and sat there sobbing, letting the emotions sink in, you know how I love tear-jerkers.

While so much of this book is just completely new, even the scenes that are the same as in Hopeless feel SO special when you read them because 1) they are just awesome scenes to relive period, and 2) the slightly different angle on them gives them just enough of a twist to make you fall in love with them all over again.

This book has it all -pain, devastation, love, loss, hope and closure.

Great series.

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Blaze by Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman

From Publishers Weekly

Clayton Blaze Blazedell Jr.’s chance for a normal life ended when his father repeatedly threw him down a flight of stairs. After finishing his adolescence in an orphanage, the large man with a striking dent in his forehead plays sidekick to George, a social deviant with a knack for cons. However, when George is killed, Blaze must come up with a con of his own. With George’s ghost to guide him, Blaze just might pull it off. Stephen King’s last novel under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman has all the classic markings of the auteur, but is marred even before it starts by King’s introduction, where he almost apologizes for publishing the book. Having narrated several King books already, McLarty already knows the author’s syntax. His raspy but gentle narration provides a familiar and comforting voice for King fans. His rasp lightens up when delivering the slow-witted Blaze, but then deepens for George’s scratchy voice. His old-timer Maine accents also produce a smile, when not evoking mental images of grizzled old semitoothed men.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Review-
This, I believe, is the first book I’ve read by Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman, so I don’t have anything to compare it to.  I will put that on my TO DO LIST – Read another “Richard Bachman” book.
This was the second time that I have listened to this book.  I enjoyed it the first time but this time not so much. It seemed boring and slow.  The story line is good, very much like OF MICE AND MEN, only in this story the more dominate character is dead and talks to Blaze in his head.  I’m glad I listened to it again because now I know I don’t want to eve4r listen to it again.  I will either give it away or sell it on Ebay.