The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

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4-Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Four women wonder who the presumably single woman is who moves onto their family-friendly Pleasant Court street. And why does she feel comfortable speaking to them so familiarly almost immediately, as though she’s known them all for years? Perplexed, they watch Isabelle, wondering what her intentions are. Essie’s mother has misgivings about the mysterious neighbor from the start. She’s different from their little clan, and vague about her background, so why did she move from Sydney to Melbourne and into their neighborhood?

Each of the three families on Pleasant Court has its own secrets and insecurities that tidily remain hidden within the confines of their own homes, while outside appearances paint a very different, more pristine picture. They’re keeping secrets from their families, and secrets from their neighbors. But the women are slowly becoming unhinged by the various complexities affecting their lives. Fran is trying to run from her problems—literally; subconsciously burning through the fear and regret that prods her every day. Essie is detaching from her familial obligations; her husband and mother worrying about her, especially since her frightful episode a few years back. In their minds she’s fragile and unstable. Ange’s guilty conscience is eating her alive, even though she is the one everybody envies—the one with the great career, gorgeous husband, immaculate home and well-mannered kids. Little do they all know that Ange is insecure about said husband whom she can never seem to track down, and who gives her a niggling feeling about his activities when he’s not at home. What is everyone hiding, and who is the stranger on Pleasant Court?

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I like the way The Family Next Door starts out mellow, builds, and then reaches a crescendo. But after that it ends rather abruptly. The psychological buildup was intense, but the end result was tamer than I’d anticipated in some instances. Specifically when it came to the enigmatic neighbor. I think there could have been a little bit more dramatic effect in some cases. However, the story advanced forward easily overall, and I was eager to turn pages. But as far as the conclusion goes, I wanted just a bit more. Other than that it really was a great read. The way and time in which secrets were revealed was excellent. Each revelation came when I wasn’t expecting it and I was blown away by how the author executed those parts. It was very well done. I would definitely recommend this book.

Thank you Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an E-ARC of this book, in exchange I have provided an honest review.

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The Wife Between Us

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 3.5 stars

I will dispense with summarizing the plot on this one because it’s too difficult to do without spoilers.

My initial reaction to this book was confusion when I first started reading it, yet I was also intrigued. I was intent on figuring out what was truly taking place with a wife, a husband and a mistress, since the back of the book said this:

WHEN YOU READ THIS BOOK, YOU WILL MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife. You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement—a woman who is about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.

You will assume you know the anatomy of the relationships. Assume nothing.——————

So I did. I assumed nothing. I dismissed from my little brain what appeared to be the obvious and waited patiently to understand what was really going on with these three characters; and I waited….and waited….. And there lies the challenge I had with this book. It peaked and then waned. I felt like not much was happening in the middle and I was getting too easily distracted away from continuing on with it. By this time I was feeling like….

At one point I put it down to start another book, but I continued on with this one and eventually finished it. In the end, I didn’t feel that the main character’s actions were enough to carry this book. Perhaps more involvement from secondary characters or external factors would have made it more exciting?? I don’t really know. It was enticing in some ways at times, but not enough to make me long to pick up where I left off until maybe the last seventy pages or so. And by then I just wanted to know what the supposed surprises would be. There were a few clever twists, but unfortunately the greatest twists took too long to be revealed and I had a feeling of too little, too late.

Overall, The Wife Between Us had wonderful potential, with a few great twists, but to me it was a little disjointed. Had the execution been different I think I would have enjoyed it more. The conclusion didn’t quite compensate for the lead-up. The authors used a fair amount of subterfuge to set things in motion, but by the time I got to the end I felt a little cheated. Apparently from the ratings I am not in the majority as to my feelings about this book, so maybe it just wasn’t for me. Please don’t let my review stop you from giving this book a try since so many others seemed to enjoy it.

Thank you, St. Martin’s Press, for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review which I have given. Until next time. Thank you for reading.

Summit Lake by Charlie Donlea

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

On Friday, Feb. 17, 2012, pretty, young law student, Becca Eckersley, died. Why did somebody take her life in such a passionate way? And why are the state police tight-lipped about any details surrounding Becca’s Murder?

Kelsey Castle, True Crime book author and journalist for Events Magazine, has just returned to work prematurely after a six-week leave-of-absence, having survived her own, as yet undisclosed, traumatic life event. Her boss informs her that he’s sending her to Summit Lake, a small town in the foothills of the beautiful blue ridge mountains of NC, to formulate a story about what might have happened to Becca.

Blue Ridge Mountains

Rewind fourteen months and we are introduced to Becca’s three best friends, and then we’re given a sequential account of Becca’s daily activities which consequently led to her demise. At the same time, Kelsey Castle is tracing Becca’s steps in Summit Lake; questioning her acquaintances, friends and significant others in an attempt to learn more about the girl that she’s becoming psychologically attached to. As she digs deeper into Becca’s life, she unmasks secrets, coverups and deceptions that just might explain what caused Becca’s death.

This book was perfect for me. It had just the right amount of mystery and suspense, and a more subtle thriller factor which I personally prefer. I really appreciate it when an author can create an amazing story without having to resort to needless shock value content in the way of excessive foul language, gratuitous violence or explicit sex scenes. Charlie Donlea accomplished this in a skillful way. There were a couple of unexpected twists that had me like …

Yup, I couldn’t believe it. Totally caught me off guard. I love it when an author can pull that off successfully.

This book was excellent. I was impressed, kept in anxious anticipation of what would happen next, and would jump at the chance to read another mystery/suspense book by Charlie Donlea. Highly recommended.

And finally, below is a trailer for Summit Lake.  Thanks, as always, for stopping by Cozynookbks.  Have a great week.

Review: Home to Stay


Home to Stay by Kate James
My rating:            5 of 5 stars

💚💚💚💚💚

Home to Stay is San Diego K-9 Unit Book 4.

Sawyer Evans’s four-year-old son, Dylan, was kidnapped from their campsite while vacationing with family.  San Diego K-9 unit officer, Shannon Clemens, is called upon with her search and rescue dog, Darwin, to try to locate the missing child. The initial search is unsuccessful and Sawyer is livid. Shannon’s emotions are stirred by Sawyer’s deep agony over his son’s disappearance, and because of her own prior personal experience with loss, she feels compelled to help Sawyer find Dylan. In time, the distraught father and caring, compassionate officer develop feelings for one another. But when another incident causes tension between the couple, their connection is strained. Will the feelings they’ve developed be enough to overcome the obstacles they’re currently facing?

Home to Stay was thoroughly engrossing from the start.  As new developments in the abduction case surfaced, the suspense and intensity continued to build, keeping me interested and engaged in the story. The intriguing mystery surrounding Dylan’s disappearance propelled the plot forward. I was put in the mind of a romantic suspense novel—albeit a milder approach to the romance and suspense elements, making it suitable for a wholesome romance book. The relationship and dialog between Sawyer and his son was endearing—so sweet and pleasant to read. Dylan was a darling little boy, and I looked forward to scenes where he was present. The relationship between Sawyer and Shannon was at times complex because of surrounding circumstances and I kept trying to envision how things would turn out for the two of them.

Riveting and imaginative, I enjoyed this book immensely. An intriguing mystery, suspense, police procedurals, a strained romance and HEA, are some of what you’ll get in Home to Stay. Very highly recommended.

I received a free copy of this book from the author. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

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Review: Hunted

Hunted
Hunted by Elizabeth Heiter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Evelyn Baine, special agent and FBI profiler extraordinaire is on the hunt for a particularly cold-blooded, sadistic serial killer who displays his victim’s bodies from the neck up in the deep woods for his own pleasure.   Identifying this violent and demented killer won’t be easy for a petite, mixed-race woman working amidst a male-dominated investigation team that treats her more like a newbie than the skillfully trained, ardent and proficient professional that she is.  Her determination in catching these criminals can be attributed to the loss of her best friend, Cassie, who was abducted and never found nearly seventeen years ago. But now Evelyn is the one being Hunted, and this monster is intent on adding her to his list of victims.
This evenly paced, cleverly crafted thriller kept me interested throughout. I was intent on finding out how Evelyn would escape her fate of winding up like the victims before her.  The ending had me flipping pages faster than I could count!!  I really enjoyed this book and recommend it for thriller/suspense lovers everywhere. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, VANISHED.  Thank you Elizabeth Heiter for a copy of this book. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

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Hazardous Homecoming by Dana Mentink

IMG_3410.JPG ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️   Oooohhh….this was a good one, a great love-inspired suspense story. The suspense aspect kept me guessing to the very end, and I was both shocked and surprised by the outcome. Ruby’s friend goes missing and 20 years later she finds key evidence that could lead to what actually happened to her. However, this finding has the potential to negatively impact the lives of cherished loved ones, and in the midst of it all could ulimately shatter and destroy the bond of love between Ruby and Cooper, who seem destined to be together. I enjoyed this story of love and loss; and Ruby’s struggle to exercise faith in God was both moving and realistic given the trials she was faced with. More often than not I am hesitant to read inspirational fiction, not because I am not a believer, but because I AM. Oftentimes I find this particular genre of books to be too preachy, with the spiritual message often forced into the dialogue at seemingly inopportune times, and in an unnatural way. I can be happily reading along and suddently I’m barraged with a heavy dose of scripture and the author’s interpretation thereof. Isn’t that what inspirational fiction is? Perhaps to some, but not all. For those of us who are religious and possess scriptural knowledge interpretations are taken quite seriously, and if the reader perceives it as incorrect or misinterpreted the reaction can be one of annoyance rather than satisfying. The inspirational fiction category can be tricky in this regard. A writer may be attempting to upbuild readers when in actuality they may be accomplishing the opposite effect, offending the readers’s own cherished belief system and doctrinal interpretations. Dana Mentink handled this superbly in Hazardous Homecoming. She used just enough inspiration to render the book encouraging. It was not overly saturated or laced with scriptural doctrine so as to conflict with my own Christian beliefs. It was for this reason, and the fact that the story was suspenseful and intriguing that I gave Hazardous Homecoming 5 stars. I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review which I have given.

Bittersweet

BittersweetBittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 3.5 stars. When Bittersweet opens we find Mabel Dagmar, a college student who is average in appearance and social standing, rooming with Genevra “Ev” Winslow, a beautiful, self-absorbed, rich snob who cares about little more than herself. Mabel is enamored with Ev’s affluent lifestyle, so when she is invited to spend the Summer with her at Bittersweet, her cottage in Vermont on her family’s lavish estate, she is elated and eager to accompany her there. Instead of fun, carefree days spent with her new friend, Mabel encounters sordid family secrets that shatter her fantasies of what it means to live amongst the wealthy.

Bittersweet is one of those books that I had to ponder before rating. There were parts I liked about the book, as well as parts I disliked. There was a mysterious undertone that pervaded the book that I found intriguing. From nearly the very beginning I felt as though something was not quite right with some of the main characters, and I think the author did a good job of keeping me in suspense. There were a few elements of surprise that caught me off guard and kept me interested enough to keep turning the pages to see what was going to happen next. I loved the names that were chosen to represent the characters, and overall I think the writer is a good storyteller. Those are some of the things that I appreciated about he book. What I didn’t appreciate was the explicit content and, in my opinion, the unnecessary use of foul language. While I didn’t feel that it was excessive in the beginning, it progressed to an uncomfortable level, along with content that I found disturbing and out of my comfort zone. I also felt that the book was a bit too lengthy. I almost lost interest a couple of times, like the book was dragging, but fortunately the story would gain momentum and I was again drawn in. I found that by the time the book neared its end I was glad to be done with it. The plot twists, while satisfying, were not always believable. I remember feeling as though many books these days are somewhat predictable in nature.

Overall I believe that many people would enjoy this book. As for me, due to some undesirable elements, as well as less than believable plot twists, it was not one of my favorites. I was shocked and amazed by some of it, and would think twice before reading another book by Miranda Whittemore.

I received this book free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review which I have given.

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