Where the Truth Lies by Anna Bailey

4 stars Mystery

This was dark.  I felt as I was reading this novel that I was being led down different paths, roads that never really connected to one another till later in the book. I knew immediately when Emma left Abigail at the party that she had made the wrong choice.  The beer is flowing freely, the bonfire is hot and the guests are ready to party.  Abigail leaves Emma behind as she walks off into the woods with the boy.  Abi tells her friend that she’ll be fine and that, she’ll find a ride home later.  Abigail never made it home that night.

So, where is Abi?  To answer that question, we’ll need to time travel and return to “Then” and get some history on our characters. Throughout this book, you’ll be rotating time periods from “then” and “now”, so don’t lose track of where you are. 

Welcome to Whistling Ridge, a small community, where not-even the preacher was honorable.  It seemed as if every citizen has a secret side of themselves, a side that only a few others see.  That hidden side can hold many different attributes and, in this town, it holds a great number.  From prejudices, abuse, phobias, anger and lying, these are just some of the issues that you’ll find on their city blocks.  I really find it interesting how all these individuals can live together in one small community and they can actually exist with one another. With everything that is dividing our country now, how can such a small town have such a high number of issues and still function as a community?  The history of these individual play a major role as they investigate where Abi went.

I, myself have never lived in a small town but my grandparents did when I was growing up and I visited there quite frequently. My grandfather owned the general store in town and we’d see lots of folks stop in.  I don’t remember hearing or hearing my grandparents talk negatively about their neighbors.  Perhaps, it depends on where you live and perhaps, they kept that information away from my ears.  I seem to gravitate towards dark stories and this one definitely checked that box, while also keeping me engaged and energized.

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

The Therapist by B.A. Paris

4.5 stars Mystery

Wakey, wakey!! I wondered as I read this book if Alice was even awake.  Did someone give her something or what’s up?  Every time a new event presented itself in this book, I’d get squeamish and wonder if this was the event that would give Alice the kick that she needed.  The nudge to finally pack those bags of hers and start looking at things from the outside. 

When Alice first found out about the incident at the new house which had been kept from her, I’d be doing some serious thinking.  I couldn’t believe that Alice was buying into her boyfriend’s explanation of his behavior.  Why exactly does he love that house so much?  What is this connection that he feels towards it?  Then, let’s induce that party crasher that you had.  This ends up not just being a typical party crasher whose coming for free drinks and food.  Nope.  He’s looking alright but he’ll be back, as he really thinks you have something he needs. 

Hello…..get packing Alice!  Why are you still staying in that house? I love a good mystery but not while I’m a part of it.  I felt that all the issues just kept adding up and I was wondering if Alice was even keeping up with all the drama.  Then, when Alice mentions her sister presence, yeah.  Well, Alice perhaps you need that house as much as your boyfriend does.

This was an entertaining read by one of my favorite authors.  She just kept on giving me reasons to question the characters and unwrap the story.  4.5 stars  

The Push by Ashley Audrain

4.5 stars

Come on, you can’t leave me hanging like this!! I can only hope that there’s a follow-up to this book because there’s no way that I can create something even close, to complete this story, to even match the cagey, disturbed feeling that I had as I read this book. 

Falling back into the history, we learn about Blythe’s mother and her grandmother. Just reading the first couple pages of this book, I was heartbroken as I read about Grandma Etta and her first love, Louis. Giving up a career in medicine, Louis became a farmer just for Etta and her family.  I thought this was a huge sacrifice to make and then, what happens to both Louis and Etta.  Ugh!  Is this really the beginning?  The parents caused this.   Has a curse been planted? It really should have started with the parents.

With her family’s history riding on her back, Blythe tries to pull out her happy face and “it’ll all be okay” attitude during her pregnancy but the truth of the situation is coming to the surface.  The baby was coming, no matter how hard she wished it would go away, their baby would come into the world and the two of them would now become three.

I heard little Violet screaming in her crib as Blythe continued to write.  So focused on getting all the words out of her head, Blythe ignored the crying until she, herself was empty.  Fox adored his daughter and he was attentive to all of her needs. I got so angry at Blythe! She wanted to be a better mother, she wanted to change her past, she wanted ……but what? She wants to write? She wants time for herself?  She was jealous of Fox and his relationship with their daughter?  Oh, give me a break Blythe! Well, Violet can see things with her own eyes and you, my dear lady, are going to be dealing with the consequences of your actions later.   Yeah, these will be bigger consequences than she ever imaged!

Fox and Blythe welcome a son into their family.  If Blythe didn’t get motherhood right with Violet, she vows to get it right with Sam, as now she’s the attentive mother with him.  One night, when she awakens with a slightest stir from Sam, she finds Violet in his room.  Sweet, sibling bonding or something more disturbing?  Let me just say that after that night, Blythe doesn’t want them alone together.  Blythe seems to think that there’s something wrong with Violet but Fox doesn’t see anything.  As I read about Blythe past, I had to wonder if perhaps the issues she was seeing had to do with her past.  Is Blythe just another link of her family’s history?  Something was definitely going on inside this household but who was responsible for it?

I really enjoyed how the story came together and I liked how the historical background played a key role.  I loved living on the fence as I read this book, never knowing who I could depend on or what was transpiring next.  I was totally consumed by this book and the lives these individuals led.  The only problem that I had with this book was that I was confused at times when the book traveled back-n-forth between time periods.  There was no indication to let the readers know that such a jump in time was occurring and it wasn’t until you had a read a few lines or paragraphs that you realized that you were not in the same time period as the previous chapter.  A fantastic book that I highly recommend!!  4.5 stars

No Exit by Taylor Adams

5 stars Thriller

I’ve read this book almost 2 books ago and I still can’t get this book out of my head.  The ending of the book had more twists than a rollercoaster and boy, do I love rollercoasters.  Once the adrenaline rush came, it came crashing down on me again and again, as Darby struggled to outwit her opponents in a war where she mentally or physically she could not rest. 

I don’t like snow or driving in snow yet where I live the possibility of snow is about 40% to 50% of my entire year.  It’s the unpredictability of snow and how other individuals behave in the snow, that makes me not like to drive in it.  Sitting behind the wheel with Darby, the snow creating a lacey veil for the struggling car to stay onto the assigned path, I’m finding myself, holding my breath.  Darby was stressed before hitting the road and now, the weather just adds to her frustration.  Since receiving the news, Darby just wanted to see her mother but now, just finding somewhere to park her car for a bit, would be a great relief.  When the windshield wiper flew off her car, I knew she was in trouble and as she limped into the rest area parking lot, I thought if she could at least stay in her vehicle, she would be fine.  But, had she pack her car for winter driving? I had a feeling that she didn’t. 

Oh Darby!  Making her way into the rest area, Darby takes in her surroundings.  The individuals hanging around inside and the location of different parts of this rest area.  When she hears that they’ve closed some of the roads due to the blizzard, she immediately began assessing the situation.  I wish she would’ve been this detailed before hitting the road, for I think it might have helped her considerably.  Darby is now stuck at a rest area with some total strangers, with no cell service and with a phone that’s almost dead. They won’t be coming to clear the roads for quite some time and when Darby goes back outside, she notices someone caged in a van.  Yes, I said caged and this someone is a small girl. 

Who is this girl?  Which one of the individuals inside the rest area owns the van?  Oh, the questions just start coming as nothing about what has just transpired is good.  Darby can’t keep still as she needs to do something to correct the situation but where does she begin? 

Thank goodness that Darby has an almost dead cell phone and no, my friends she hadn’t packed her car for winter driving nor had she prepared herself for any type of an emergency before she left.  She’s surrounded by a blizzard, alone, confronted with a nightmare which she has to put an end to tonight. 

This was a fantastic, high-energy book. It definitely got my adrenaline going and it still gets me pumped up when I think about it.  I would recommend it but with a warning, you might not get any sleep once you start it.   

Hairpin Bridge by Taylor Adams

4.5 stars Thriller

Given the evidence, I’d have done exactly what Lena did when she was notified that her twin sister had committed suicide.  Sure, Cambry wasn’t completely stable but Lena feels that she knows her sister and that she wouldn’t commit suicide.  Cambry was supposed to be taking a break from life, traveling, living in her car, enjoying the world around her so, why would she suddenly decide to end her life by jumping off a bridge?  Then, there’s the police report.  This piece of paper raises too many red flags for Lena.  Why hasn’t anyone else questioned this record?  Do they understand all the phone calls Cambry made?  What about Cambry’s last message, what did she mean by that?  Was it just a coincidence, the contact between Cambry and the same highway patrolman before and after her death?  This was one intense read and I wanted needed to know the answers.

As Lena meets Reymond Raycevic on Hairpin Bridge, she wants the full account of what occurred between Reymond and her sister, when the two of them came into contact.  As Lena listens, the Montana Highway Patrolman comes off irritated for having to repeat this but nevertheless, he gives Lena what she wants.  Whoops!  Better slow down Mr. Patrolman, you might just not want to be so overconfident.  This is getting good as Lena is a great listener and she’s paying close attention to everything that he’s saying. She’s not giving up until she knows the truth and she’s not putting any trust in the words on the typed-up police report.      

Another fantastic book by Taylor Adams, an exciting pursuit that had me turning the pages way past my bedtime!  I received a copy of this book from Scene of the Crime Early Read Program in exchange for an honest opinion, thank you for sending me this book. 

Playing Nice by J.P. Delaney

5 stars Fiction

Does biology trump love?  As I listened to this book, I kept wondering what I would do if I were placed in such a predicament.  After caring for a young child for 2 years, do you think you could relinquish control because someone made a mistake?  Was it a mistake or was it done on purpose?  It’s not like you got the wrong car, or the wrong dog (although this would be hard too), this is a small child who has depended on you, someone that you have cared for, protected, loved and bonded with for over 700 days. How could you walk away from that?  My mind couldn’t fantom how anyone was going to win in this situation. 

So many questions had to be answered after they proved that an error had occurred, and it began with who?  Who would commit such an act?  What did they have to gain from it?  I should have slowed the speed of the audio down as I felt that the book was speeding out of control or was it just the intensity of the situation.  I had my suspects but I didn’t feel that their motives were solid enough.  I felt an emotional connection to the children, how would they feel now and again, later in the future, knowing what happened to them?  Would this mess them up, could they bounce back, or would they need counseling to figure out why they now had another mommy and daddy?  Trying to correct the situation, I found myself arguing out loud, as each set of parents had their own idea on what they felt was the best plan.  Miles wanted to run the show, he thinks that he has everything under control and it frustrated me how he tries to take charge.  As I learned more about the children, the motive of why become clearer and the suspect list dropped to just a few individuals.  It was such a great book to listen to and one that completely took over my morning.  I highly recommend it.

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

5 stars YA

“Content warning: mentions of sexual abuse, rape, assault, child abuse, kidnapping, and addiction to opioids.” Yes, to all of this but yet, there is no warning about not being able to eat, drink, or think of anything else besides this book once you step inside its pages.  Then, there’s that book hangover, once you’re finished and you’re left staring at the back of the book breathing, reliving those incredible scenes that were more than just words on a page, where was this warning, as my mind tries to unwind. 

Korey, was everything she ever wanted.  He was perfect, at least that side of him was.   When Enchanted finally sees all sides of Korey, it’s too late.  This was a fantastic page-turner of a book, a book in which I felt a deep connection to the characters and the story couldn’t have been more honest and real unless I knew these individuals personally.

The book opens with a brutal murder and then, the book flashes back to when the characters first met each other and their story unfolds.  Enchanted was trying to fulfill her dream, a dream filled with music when she is spotted by Korey. Korey, the famous R&B artist has taken an interest in Enchanted and tells her everything that she wanted to hear.  As he works his charm, she is swept away.  Korey knows exactly what he’s doing, as he wins Enchanted over but Enchanted is an innocent, 17-year-old, victim who just wanted a music career.  And Korey, he’s a manipulator, a controller, an abuser(mentally), and a serial pedophile, who just got his next victim. 

This was a hard book to read as Enchanted voice got harder to hear. Korey began placing restrictions on her which confused her yet Korey made them seem like a positive part of their relationship.  More constraints and limitations began to weigh Enchanted down.  She was losing control as she began acting like a puppet, doing what she was told, losing her self-confidence as she feels she has no other option.  Such a powerful book, a book that had important messages and I appreciate the author addressing these issues openly and directly.  I highly recommend this book if you enjoy stories addressing these issues.  Amazing story!   

Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison

4 stars Mystery

Love makes some individuals blind and stupid.  Claire claims that she loves Jack and Jack feels that Claire is the one yet, let’s be real here.  Do they think that they can hide parts of their lives from each other, when they’re days away from tying the knot?  I wasn’t sure who was wearing the better disguise, Claire or Jack?  I do know that I enjoyed discovering how they each thought that they had the upper hand.    

I was in Claire’s corner as I learned how closed-lipped Jack was about parts of his life.  Was he just wanting to move on or was he trying to hide something? She knew that she wasn’t Jack’s #1 but I wasn’t prepared for how this really affected her. The longer I read the book, I thought perhaps they might just be right for each another, as Claire’s secrets were disclosed.  

Setting in motion the events leading up to their wedding ceremony, the parties arrive on the island and I was in awe. Talk about money! It’s an amazing place but dang, this wonderful day was turning into a nightmare.  A nightmare that I enjoyed but the individuals on the island, weren’t having so much fun. 

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The author did a great job disclosing their secrets and I enjoyed the implications that these had on the individuals involved. A time for celebration, the main characters were on edge while many of the guests were enjoying themselves on the island, I liked how there was this mix as it provided an element of uncertainty in the book.  This was a great mystery that I had a hard time putting down.

Thank you to HarperCollins and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest opinion. #HerDarkLies #NetGalley

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

4 stars Mystery

Jane was their dog walker, a new face, who was just looking for a fresh start, trying to put her past behind her.  Welcome to Thornfield Estates, where everyone has secrets and nothing is private.

I listened to this book on audio and the characters definitely shined.  These Southern women provided me with some great laughs as they tried to be discreet about their actions.  Jane runs into Eddie, whose wife is missing and soon, Jane becomes a constant figure in Eddie’s life.  

There were a few great twists in this story yet some parts of this story were predictable as I read.  I liked the story’s pace and how the story unfolded as it kept me engaged.  Even though the ending may seem to be open-ended,  I liked how the book ended.   

White Ivy by Susie Yang

4 stars Fiction

She thought she was privileged so she took what she wanted, even at others expense. As she looked at the lives around her and compared them to her own, she wanted to fill in the missing pieces but at the same time, Ivy knew that she had to be the person that others saw her to be. Ivy was a devious character, someone who could play you and you wouldn’t even know it.

I found the beginning of White Ivy engaging as I learned about the character of Ivy.  Ivy was born in China and when her parents moved to America, they left her behind.  When she was 5, they send for her.  She lives with her parents and her grandmother, Meifeng. Oh my gosh, Meifeng!  This woman was such a powerful influence to Ivy growing up.  Meifeng and Ivy went shopping at Goodwill, good old grandma shows Ivy how to shoplift and price swap. I couldn’t believe it! The “shopping” at Goodwill was just the beginning for Ivy.

Ivy obtains free tuition from a private school since her father works there and she begins seeing items that she’s missing in her life and her “shopping” expands. Ivy also begins to take interest in Gideon who goes to school with her.  When she returns home from a trip, she’s heartbroken as she discovers that they’ve moved, and she can no longer attend that school and see Gideon.  I found this middle section of the book a bit drawn out and long. 

Years later, Ivy later runs into a relative of Gideon but she’s supposedly into Roux.  This woman!  I could have smacked her a few times towards the end of the book where things really picked up and I couldn’t put the book down.  When is this girl going to wise up?  Was she going to go after Gideon after all this time?  What about Roux and what they had?  Dang, girl!

This book was not what I had expected.  If you can work through the middle of the book, it’s a great book to read. I read this book for my Read Woke Challenge.