Category Archives: Rated B+

Review: Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

Title: Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda
Publisher: Graydon House
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In the bestselling, page-turning vein of The Couple Next Door and The Dinner, Kaira Rouda weaves a gripping, tautly suspenseful tale of deception and betrayal dark enough to destroy a marriage…or a life.

“I glance at my wife as she climbs into the passenger seat, and I am bursting with confidence. Today will be everything I’ve promised her…and more…”

Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. And he’s promised today will be the best day ever.

But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to arise. How much do they trust each other? And how perfect is their marriage, or any marriage, really?

Forcing us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are closest to us, Best Day Ever crackles with dark energy, spinning ever tighter toward its shocking conclusion.

Review:

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda is a chilling, suspenseful novel about a seemingly devoted husband who whisks his wife away for a romantic weekend at their lake house.

On the surface, advertising executive Paul Strom is good looking, successful and very involved in his wife, Mia, and their two sons’ lives. His marriage is quite traditional with Mia staying home to care for the children while Paul works hard to provide for his family. On the drive to their lake house, Paul is quite contemplative as he reflects on pivotal events that have occurred throughout his life. His musings run the gamut from his somewhat dysfunctional childhood to his first romance after college to his courtship of Mia. However, these rather bland reflections soon become disquieting and rather sinister as Paul’s anecdotes finally reveal his true nature. The tone of the novel soon turns ominous despite Paul’s constant assertions to Mia (and the reader) that he has planned the “best day ever” for his lovely wife.

Mia comes across as a dutiful wife who is completely under her husband’s thumb. In recent months, she has been suffering from a undiagnosed illness but her health appears to be improving. However, during the drive, Paul notices something about his wife seems to be different, but he cannot quite put his finger on what has changed. Once they arrive at their lake house, Mia immediately goes off Paul’s carefully scripted plans and he is frustrated by her emerging independence. He finally gets their evening back on track when he takes Mia to an upscale restaurant for a romantic dinner, but will their evening the way Paul has envisioned?

Narrated from Paul’s point of view and taking place over a twenty four hour period, Best Day Ever is a spellbinding novel that is impossible to put down. Although it is apparent right from the beginning that there is something quite off about Paul, it is still incredibly shocking once the truth about him is fully revealed.  This tightly plotted domestic mystery has some fiendishly clever twists and turns that are sure to surprise readers as Kaira Rouda brings the novel to an unexpected conclusion.

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Filed under Best Day Ever, Contemporary, Graydon House, Kaira Rouda, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison

Title: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Domestic noir at its best. Readers will devour this stunning page-turner about the disintegration of a marriage as grief, jealousy, betrayal and murder destroy the facade of the perfect literary couple. New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison takes her exceptional writing to a new level with this breakout novel. 

They built a life on lies 

Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

Review:

Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison is a twist-filled, suspense laden mystery about a missing wife whom the police eventually suspect the husband might have murdered.

Sutton and Ethan Montclair are a seemingly perfect couple.  Both are successful authors who lead a somewhat glamorous life. They live in a beautifully remodeled home in an upscale neighborhood. However, after enduring an absolutely heartbreaking loss, cracks appear in their once rock solid happy marriage and both suffer a few upsetting career setbacks.  So when Ethan wakes up to find that Sutton has disappeared without taking any of her personal possessions, he is concerned about her in spite the note she left for him telling her not to look for her.  After Ethan reports her disappearance to the police, he becomes their prime suspect after they uncover damning information that leads them to believe he might have murdered Sutton. One of the investigators on the case, Holly Graham, is not quite convinced that Ethan is responsible for his wife’s disappearance but will she uncover the evidence she needs to clear him of wrongdoing?

The mystery surrounding Sutton’s disappearance is gripping and initially, Ethan’s version of events rings true. However, disquieting information is quickly disclosed that allows doubts to gradually creep in. His behavior is erratic and some of his reactions seem just a tad bit… off. The information the police uncover is sinister but would Ethan really be stupid enough to leave evidence if he is actually responsible for Sutton’s suspicious disappearance?

Interspersed with the unfolding events are chapters from an unidentified person’s perspective. These chilling entries paint the picture of a very disturbed individual. The addition of this unknown entity ratchets up the tension as the search for Sutton intensifies.

Lie to Me is an extremely clever mystery with a dark and twisted storyline that keeps the novel moving at a blistering pace. The characters are not likeable and as the story progresses, they become increasingly unreliable. Readers will remain glued to the pages of this diabolical thriller as they attempt to piece together the truth about whether or not Ethan has anything to do with Sutton’s disappearance.  Through a series of cunning twists and shocking turns, J.T. Ellison  brings the novel to a jaw-dropping conclusion. A masterfully written thriller that I absolutely LOVED and highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, JT Ellison, Mira, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

Title: Lies She Told by Cate Holahan
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From the author of one of Kirkus Reviews’ best books of the year, The Widower’s Wife, comes an electrifying story of love and deceit.

The truth can be darker than fiction.

Liza Cole, a once-successful novelist whose career has seen better days, has one month to write the thriller that could land her back on the bestseller list. Meanwhile, she’s struggling to start a family, but her husband is distracted by the disappearance of his best friend, Nick. As stresses weigh her down in her professional and personal lives, Liza escapes into writing the chilling exploits of her latest heroine, Beth.

Beth, a new mother, suspects her husband is cheating on her while she’s home caring for their newborn. Angry and betrayed, she aims to catch him in the act and make him pay for shattering the illusion of their perfect life. But before she realizes what she’s doing, she’s tossing the body of her husband’s mistress into the East River.

Then, the lines between Liza’s fiction and her reality eerily blur. Nick’s body is dragged from the East River, and Liza’s husband is arrested for his murder. Before her deadline is up, Liza will have to face up to the truths about the people around her, including her own. If she doesn’t, the end of her heroine’s story could be the end of her own.

Review:

In Lies She Told, Cate Holahan skillfully utilizes the book within a book format which makes for an extremely  riveting read as chapters alternate between author Liza Cole and the protagonist in her work in progress, Beth.

Liza is extremely  stressed as she and her husband, David, struggle with infertility. Adding to their difficulties is the disappearance of David’s close friend and law partner, Nick Laundau, who disappeared a month earlier.  Liza is also on a tight deadline for her next novel so she is immersed in her latest project as she departs for a  writer’s conference. With her editor Trevor pressuring her for a sexy romantic suspense novel that will put her back on the bestseller’s list, Liza is exhausted, hormonal and frustrated by David’s preoccupation with finding Nick while at the same time trying to keep their law practice afloat. Liza is soon unable to tell fact from fiction as events in the present begin to bear eerie similarities to the  novel she is writing. Is life imitating art? Or is there a far more sinister reason for the shocking parallels?

Until recently, Liza’s twelve year marriage to David has been quite happy and fulfilling. Until she failed to conceive, the only blight on their happiness is the fact that Nick intensely dislikes her and he makes no effort to keep his feelings about her secret. Her infertility has begun to take a toll on their marriage but she refuses to give up on becoming pregnany even though David is no longer an active participant. Liza is resentful of her husband’s lack of support and she is not exactly sympathetic to his concern over Nick’s disappearance.

Escaping her real life problems by focusing on her work in progress, Liza finds it surprisingly easy to get inside the head of her protagonist, Beth. Beth is a new mother who stumbles across irrefutable proof her husband is cheating on her. Instead of confronting him, she becomes obsessed with him and his mistress. This obsession culminates with a horrific act and eventually the events in Liza’s novel begin to mimic the harrowing experiences happening in real life. Which begs the question: is Liza’s work in progress a product of her imagination?

From the chilling prologue until the action-packed conclusion, Lies She Told by Cate Holahan is an engrossing, suspense-laden read. Liza is a fascinating protagonist whose flaws make her sympathetic and relatable. The chapters from the work in progress are intriguing and just as interesting as the drama unfolding in Liza’s everyday life. This intricately plotted novel has plenty of twists, turns and a brilliantly executed book within a book concept that will keep readers on the edge of their seat until the shocking dénouement. An absolutely outstanding mystery that fans of the genre do not want to miss!

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Filed under Cate Holahan, Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, Lies She Told, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: The Long Ride Home by Tawni Waters

Title: The Long Ride Home by Tawni Waters
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 240 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

After the loss of her mother, Harley can barely handle her grief. But the start of summer marks new beginnings, and Harley leaves for a cross-country road trip to scatter her mother’s ashes with Dean, her friend (with benefits). The two ride by motorcycle, reconnecting with people who knew her mother along the way.

But it’s not long before Harley realizes she’s pregnant…with Dean’s child. And as Harley learns that her mother faced similar choices during her own pregnancy, Harley must come to terms with her mother’s past to make a difficult decision about her own future.

Review:

The Long Ride Home by Tawni Waters is a poignant yet surprisingly sometimes humorous young adult novel about a teenager’s road trip to scatter her beloved mother’s ashes.

Six months after the death of her mom, Harley is still deeply grieving her loss. In the aftermath of her mother’s death, she moves from New York to California to live with her mom’s best friend, Mercy. Angry, hurting and suffering from anxiety attacks, Harley’s only friend (with benefits) is Dean and when she asks him to join her on her cross country trek to spread her mom’s ashes, he agrees without hesitation. However, Harley is keeping a big secret from Dean and she is quick to lash out in anger when she feels overwhelmed by the events that have occurred in recent months.

Harley is incredibly prickly and antagonistic but it is impossible not feel empathy for everything she has recently experienced. She uses sarcasm and snark as a defense mechanism when things become too emotional for her. She also shuts down instead of discussing important issues and she is also quick to run away from her problems instead of facing them head on. Her road trip to take her mom’s  ashes back to New York quickly turns into an emotional journey in which Harley learns some unpleasant truths about her mother’s past. However these negative discoveries are offset by the realization that Harley is not as alone as she believes and that there are people in her life whom she can count on. Harley makes several impetuous decisions that are somewhat self-destructive but some of her choices are also unexpectedly healing.

The Long Ride Home is an emotionally compelling, gritty young adult novel.  Tawni Waters deftly handles difficult subject matter with sensitivity and she brilliantly balances the more sorrowful moments with humor. With a realistic storyline, a feisty lead protagonist and an endearingly charming hero, this thought-provoking novel is well-written with an unexpected ending.  An excellent story that I highly recommended to adult and older teen readers.

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Filed under Contemporary, Rated B+, Review, Sourcebooks Fire, Tawni Waters, The Long Ride Home, Young Adult

Review: The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas

Title: The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas
Publisher: Berkely
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 332 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

One woman’s journey home gets derailed by her soon-to-be ex-mother-in-law in a novel filled with humor, small-town charm, rekindled love, and the resilient ties of family.

Cast aside by her cheating husband, Katelyn Chandler is ready to pack it all in and drive home to Little Springs, Texas. She wants a chance to regroup, reconnect with her mother, and get back to her art.

But Shirley Pratt—master manipulator, elitist snob, and Katelyn’s terror of a live-in monster-in-law—has other ideas. Shirley insists on joining Katelyn’s trip after her son tries to pack her off to a retirement community. Katelyn has no choice but to play peacekeeper between the ornery old woman and the proud matrons of Little Springs. Yet the small town seems to be changing Shirley. And as Katelyn weighs the wisdom of picking up where she left off with Jackson Mendoza, the town bad boy and her high school sweetheart, she must find a way to believe in the strength of her dreams.

Review:

The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas is a captivating novel of new beginnings and rediscovering one’s self in the wake of divorce.

Katelyn Chandler Pratt is absolutely stunned when her husband Don unceremoniously divorces her after nineteen years of marriage. With her disagreeable mother-in-law Shirley in tow, Katelyn returns to her small hometown in Texas to regroup and spend some long overdue time with her mom, Birdie.  Having lost touch with her own hopes and goals in the process of raising her children and helping her soon to be ex-husband rise up the corporate ladder, Katelyn hopes to reignite her long neglected dream of becoming an artist.  Returning to her small town roots, Katelyn finds a new appreciation for the small town she once could not wait to leave behind while at the same time she discovers she still has feelings for her high school boyfriend Jackson Mendoza.  With her departure date fast approaching, Katelyn remains torn about what she wants for her future.

The only child of parents who struggled to make ends meet, Katelyn could not wait to forge a life far away from her small hometown. Meeting and marrying Don fulfilled her goal of financial security and she was quite content with her marriage until the day her husband decided to divorce her. As she spends time renewing her somewhat distant relationship with Birdie, Katelyn comes to quite a few realizations about herself and her marriage.  As she encourages her mother to pursue her long abandoned dream, will Katelyn take her own advice when it comes to her own dormant goal to become an artist?

Despite their ease in renewing their friendship, Jackson is uneasy about spending time with Katelyn. His life took a somewhat difficult turn after their breakup and while he has overcome his demons, he keeps to himself in order to avoid backsliding into old habits. Will these fears prevent Jackson from pursuing a relationship with Katelyn?

The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas is an engaging and thought-provoking journey of self-discovery.  With a cast of colorful and entertaining characters, a realistic storyline about returning to your roots and a sweet, understated romance, this charming novel will delight readers who enjoy contemporary women’s fiction.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Marin Thomas, Rated B+, Review, The Future She Left Behind, Women's Fiction

Review: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

Title: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

A haunting, richly atmospheric, and deeply suspenseful novel from the acclaimed author of The Enchanted about an investigator who must use her unique insights to find a missing little girl.

“Where are you, Madison Culver? Flying with the angels, a silver speck on a wing? Are you dreaming, buried under snow? Or—is it possible—you are still alive?”

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl, too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

Told in the alternating voices of Naomi and a deeply imaginative child, The Child Finder is a breathtaking, exquisitely rendered literary page-turner about redemption, the line between reality and memories and dreams, and the human capacity to survive.

Review:

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld is a fast-paced and compelling mystery with a unique protagonist and an intriguing premise.

Naomi is a private investigator who specializes in searching for missing children. Her latest case takes her to the snow-laden Oregon mountains where she is searching for Madison Culver, a young girl who went missing three years earlier.  Despite the passage of time, Naomi is working off the assumption that Madison is still alive and she quickly embarks on a systematic and in depth investigation that she hopes will lead her to the missing girl.

Due to her personal history, Naomi is compelled to help the loved ones whose children have gone missing. She works with a single-minded focus as she attempts to uncover evidence that will hopefully lead her to the truth about the children she is searching for.  Naomi is a very personable young woman but she finds it difficult to let people into her life. She is somewhat closed off and she is quite reluctant to trust anyone. Naomi distances herself physically and emotionally from almost everyone in her life.

Naomi’s investigation into Madison’s disappearance is thorough and she does not hesitate to follow every piece of information she uncovers. She is somewhat reckless as she travels to remote locations without giving any thought to her personal safety. Naomi has no qualms about confronting the trappers who have unconventional lives and are naturally suspicious of everyone outside of their trusted circle. Despite the harsh weather and unforgiving mountainous terrain, Naomi continues her search for Madison after she discovers troubling information about someone in the distant past.

In addition to the investigation into Madison’s disappearance, Naomi is beginning to remember bits and pieces about her own fractured past. Up to this point, she has very few concrete recollections of her time in captivity. However, the fragmented pieces from her traumatic past are finally beginning to fall into place, and Naomi hopes she will now find the answers to the questions that have long haunted her.

The Child Finder is an engrossing mystery that delves into somewhat dark subject matter.  Rene Denfeld deftly broaches these difficult topics with sensitivity but please be aware there are some chapters which are graphic yet integral to the storyline. I highly recommend this sometimes heartbreaking yet ultimately redemptive novel to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, Harper, Mystery, Rated B+, Rene Denfeld, Suspense, The Child Finder