Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

9780451499578

Here and Gone tells the tale of a mother’s worst nightmare: someone taking her children and no one believing her. They were here with her one minute and gone the next. And now fingers of the townspeople and the law are pointing at her.

She was desperate to leave her abusive husband and set out with her 10 and 6 year old kids across the country to seek refuge with a friend.  On the way to a new beginning, free from her husband’s abuse, Audra is stopped (in what appears to be a routine traffic stop) by a sheriff in a small, old-fashioned town and everything changes in an instant. A large bag of weed which was obviously planted in her trunk, is found during the stop, so now the sheriff can take her in for questioning and press charges for possession with intent to sell. With Audra’s history of alcohol and prescription drug abuse, she doesn’t stand a chance in the eye of her accusers, even when she has been clean for two years. As she watches helplessly locked in the back of the sheriff’s car, another policewoman comes and loads her children up to take them to a “safe place.” Locked in the town jail until she can appear in court the next morning, Audra demands to know where her children are, but the only response she receives is “what children?”.

How can she ever find her children when no one in the town believes that the children were in the car with her when she was stopped by the sheriff? And it certainly doesn’t help when her terror of a husband and evil mother-in-law portray their side of the story to the media, painting a portrait of Audra as an abuser and unfit mother who has likely killed her children. Talk about an impossible situation to be in. I was blown away by the sheer terror of this story, and I could not put it down until I figured out how Audra was going to find Sean and Louise.

The story switches back and forth between the points of view of Audra, her children, and a stranger named Danny Lee. When the reader is introduced to Danny Lee, he or she may wonder what in the world he has to do with the kidnapping of Audra’s children, but Danny Lee becomes very important to the plot. You’ll see!

This book was terrifying, but so good that I read the whole thing in a few hours last night. The characters are uniquely drawn and the plot is well thought out as well. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read before, that’s for sure. Major props to Haylen Beck for a fascinating and stimulating roller-coaster novel. It’s sure to be a summer hit and I would highly recommend it for fans of suspense, thrillers, and mysteries.

Thank you to Blogging for Books for the review copy. It was wonderful!! I can’t wait for her next book to release.

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Lone Star by Paullina Simons

9780062098153_2230bLone Star will be published on November 24, 2015. I was drawn to this book at first because I absolutely loved The Bronze Horseman series by Paullina Simons. I hoped this story would be as beautiful, and it certainly is.

Lone Star is the story of four teenagers, getting ready to graduate from high school and start “real life.” Chloe and her best friend, Hannah, have always dreamed of visiting Barcelona, and they have been saving money to go before they start college in the Fall. When their boyfriends, brothers Mason and Blake, decide to go with them; the girls have no idea what kind of a trip it’s going to be. It is the story of friendships, and the relationships between each of the four teens, best friends since childhood. Their relationships change drastically once they are in the new & unfamiliar environments of Europe, where they can try to be themselves or continue to keep hold of the secrets and lies which bind them together. Then, Johnny, a traveling musician with a star of Texas tattoo on his chest, joins their group in Latvia. Johnny both confuses and charms Chloe at the same time, never even revealing his real name to her, even during a very passionate few weeks.

Though the book is rather long and the story unfolds over the span of 3 years, the writing is fluid and seamless. Simons writes beautiful, flowing descriptions and vivid scenes, much like in The Bronze Horseman. She blends a bit of historical fiction, regarding the Holocaust, concentration camps, and death camps, in with modern day coming-of-age story. The book includes quite a bit of romance, including some steamy scenes, mystery surrounding Johnny’s true identity, his past, and his future, and much drama between family & friends. The descriptions of Latvia, Riga, Italy, & Poland are wonderful, causing the reader to feel as if they are thrown into the story, regardless of where the characters end up.

I started off reading this a little on the slow side, but once the group of 4 made it to Europe, I couldn’t put the book down. I read the entire second half of the story in one sitting. In a scene at the end, after Chloe takes an extremely long journey (to discover something, she hopes,) I got goosebumps because I could feel her elation and hope, quickly followed by her extreme sense of loss and grief.

I loved reading how Chloe’s character developed, the way she learned by trial and error, by making mistakes, proving that she is human and its ok. Once she opened her eyes to what was in front of her all along, she finally begins to live…and to love.

I would highly recommend this romantic saga, as well as The Bronze Horseman series, which is also excellent!