Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

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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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The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

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The River at Night is one of the best suspenseful, action-packed thrillers that I’ve read in quite some time. It’s a debut novel from author Erica Ferencik, and what a brilliant first novel it is! The story pacing rolls and twists erratically, much like the dangerous river Wini, Pia, Rachel, and Sandra are rafting through the remote Maine wilderness. Ferencik’s characters are vividly portrayed, each uniquely drawn but vitally important to the story. The four women have been friends for many years, but don’t spend as much time together as they would like. Pia, the most adventuresome, fearless and usual leader of the group, plans a trip to the Allagash wilderness in a remote mountainous area of Maine, 30 miles from the closet town. The plan is to meet up with a river guide, Rory, a complete stranger they will have to trust with their lives to get them down the river safely. Despite the trepidation and worry involved with trying something new, Wini and the others are excited for a fun annual girls trip together. Wini is especially excited to have something to focus on, after losing her younger brother and the recent end to her 15 year marriage. The women have no idea what kind of adventure, danger, and thrills await them on the river and in the surrounding wilderness.

Rory is a twenty year old, ruggedly handsome playboy making money by offering guided trips down the raging river. Pia and Rory hit it off a little too well, causing some heated tension between the women. However, they must put their feelings aside, realizing that they depend on Rory for safety and survival. About a third of the way into their trip and partially down the river, an unforeseen tragedy strikes, plunging the women into  a living nightmare. Suddenly they are hopelessly lost and have nothing – no river guide, no supplies, no raft, and no map. Fortunately, they have  each other, but not for long.

As night descends around them in the cold, damp wilderness, they see a beacon of hope – a campfire on the side of the mountain within walking distance. Reinvigorated a bit, they set off toward the fire to find a very primitive camp inhabited by two people. Wini quickly realizes that this backwoods, filthy pair is not actually going to help the women back to civilization at all. Instead, they aim to make the group disappear by all means necessary. Thus begins a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse as the women flee for their lives, but also race against the clock to survive before hunger, thirst, shock, and injuries consume them.

Readers will be dumbstruck by some of the lightning-speed plot twists near the end of the story. I loved the story, even though it didn’t end on a happy note, because (small spoiler alert!) not all the women make it out of the wilderness alive. The writing is vividly real, with brutally raw, emotional scenes between the friends as they cling to each other for support and survival. I also appreciated the way the river was portrayed as a character in itself, a beautiful, but relentless force of nature.

I highly recommend this book. I read it in one evening. You won’t be able to put it down, and I know you’ll love it as much as I did.

A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell

9780062497772_c19aeA Simple Favor will be released on March 21, 2017.

The story unfolds through the points of view of three separate unreliable narrators. One is Emily, a woman who goes missing and is presumed dead. Two is Emily’s loving, devoted, and distraught husband, Sean. The third is Stephanie, Emily’s best friend, and the mother to Emily’s son Nicky’s best friend, Miles.

Stephanie is a stay-at-home mom and blogger. Her blog is about the everyday excitement (as well as mundane day-to-day happenings) of raising a child, and it has quite a following. Stephanie’s husband was killed a few years prior in an accident, so she has been raising Miles on her own. Upon meeting Nicky’s mother, Emily, Stephanie is instantly drawn to her and soon considers them to be best friends, just like their sons. Stephanie seems jealous of Emily’s marriage and her prestigious career as a marketing manager for a well-known fashion brand. While Emily is wearing the latest fashion and turning heads, Stephanie is playing “Captain Mom.”

As friends and neighbors, Stephanie and Emily often help each other out with childcare, so Stephanie doesn’t think twice about saying “yes” and keeping Nicky as a simple favor for Emily when she has to work late one evening. However, when Emily doesn’t return, text, or call Stephanie after many days, she becomes very worried. Stephanie reaches out to Emily’s husband, a business man who is often away on trips and not too present as a Dad to Nicky. Together, they try to piece together their last conversations with Emily in the hope that they can find her alive and well. When Emily’s body turns up at a cabin in the Michigan woods a few months later, the plot thickens; and soon readers don’t know if any of the characters can be trusted. I won’t give away any more details, because I am a big believer in spoiler-free reviews. However, you won’t want to put this book down once you get started. It is fast paced with surprises and thrills around every corner.

A Simple Favor has many definite, undeniable similarities to Gone, Girl. Fans of The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, and The Luckiest Girl Alive will not want to miss this irresistible psychological thriller from Darcey Bell.

Thank you to Harper Collins for an advanced digital review copy of this title.

 

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

iletyougoI Let You Go will be published by Penguin Group on May 3, 2016.

Oh my goodness – this book is a roller-coaster ride! This book has it all – part police procedural, mystery, love story, and family drama. There are two story lines, both starting out with a tragic hit & run accident, killing a young boy named Jacob. Jenna Gray leaves her grief from losing her son and a fear-filled life for a remote seaside cottage on the Welsh coast. Meanwhile, seasoned police inspector, Ray, teams up with younger, beautiful inspector trainee, Kate, in an attempt to find the hit & run driver and bring some closure to Jacob’s mother. Ray’s home life is just about as stressful as his work life, due to the tension with his wife, a former police officer, and problems at school with his teenage son. Kate is young, energetic, easily accessible, and a great sounding board for Ray. Will he slip up and jeopardize his future, both at work and at home?

When Part 1 ended with a major twist, I had to go back and reread the first two chapters just to figure out what was going on. It really threw me for a loop, and after that I couldn’t put the book down. Part 2 picks up quickly, with jaw-dropping scenes and unimaginable, terrifying moments, as Jenna’s story is revealed piece by heartbreaking piece. The story line truly proves that things are not always what they seem.

This book made me cry for Jenna, and also gave me chills of terror. The writing is excellent, as even the ending leaves readers wondering if what people believed happened actually did transpire. Upon finishing, I was left with an unsettling, creepy feeling that can only be quelled with a sequel. I do hope Mackintosh writes many more novels. This is her first, and it’s an amazing accomplishment. Ray’s character reminds me a bit of Michael Connolly’s famous character, Harry Bosch. Fans of the Bosch series and of psychological thrillers such as The Girl on the Train, The Luckiest Girl Alive, and The Good Girl will enjoy this book. I highly recommend it.

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

Married for many years and with twins in their first year of college, Sarah and Jack Quinlan live a pretty normal life. Sarah feels like she knows her husband pretty well. However, when Jack’s aunt Julia is in a tragic accident, Jack and Sarah make their first trip back to Jack’s hometown of Penny Gate to be there for his family. Julia was like a mother to Jack and his young9780778318651_16f01er sister, Amy, after Jack’s parents were killed when he was a teenager. Sarah was always under the impression that Jack’s parents were killed in an auto accident. Once she begins talking to Jack’s family members and others in the tight-knit community of Penny Gate, she realizes that Jack has been hiding the truth about his parents fate, as well as many other things from her throughout their whole marriage.

After Jack’s sister, Amy, is suspected of hurting Julia, Sarah begins to wonder if Jack is not the true mastermind behind it all. It doesn’t help his case when Sarah finds out that his cousin Hal’s wife, Celia, was Jack’s serious girlfriend in high school. Not one to back down easy, Sarah decides that she will not leave Penny Gate until she discovers the truth about Jack’s parents, Julia’s “accident,” and other strange things she has witnessed in the short time since she arrived. The closer she gets to the truth, the closer she gets to someone playing a very dangerous game with her life.

This is a fast paced read, and the suspense builds all the way to the end. Gudenkauf is great at leaving little clues throughout the story, without giving away the outcome too early. I enjoyed the book, and I would recommend it to fans of Mary Kubica, Gillian Flynn, and Chevy Stevens.

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben

foolmeonceFool Me Once will be released on March 22, 2016. This is a stand alone suspense novel from Harlan Coben, best known for writing the fast-paced, popular Myron Bolitar series. Coben is a master at writing hard-to-put-down novels, and his latest is no different.

Maya Stern, a former special operations pilot, has just buried her husband after he was brutally murdered in what appears to be a robbery gone wrong. Maya is no stranger to loss, having just buried her sister 4 months prior to her husband’s death. A concerned friend, though Maya doesn’t truly trust anyone, has brought her a nanny cam to help her feel at ease while at work away from her 2 year old daughter. One day while viewing the footage, she catches a glimpse of the unbelievable – her husband playing with their daughter. She was there when he was shot and she knows he’s gone; so, how can this be? Is she suffering from PTSD, hallucinating, and imagining things, as her in-laws and friends start to suspect? Or, is Joe still alive? She starts to question the nanny, and realizes that someone is covering up the truth. She is determined to uncover the truth about Joe, and also his younger brother who died in a boating “accident” while the two were in college, despite being warned against such activity by those closest to her. Maya will not give up until she assures that the future is safe for her daughter.

This book will have you on the edge of your reading chair, biting your nails to the quick. It’s trademark Coben, with a major plot twist which throws the reader for a loop, as he or she tries to figure out the truth. This is a quick, suspenseful story with an unexpected ending. Readers will not be disappointed.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

First of all; one of the reasons I wanted to read this book was the clever title. We’ve all heard the old rhyme “In a dark, dark wood, there was a dark, dark house, and in that dark, dark house, etc.” The title alone sets up a creepy atmosphere. At the beginning of the book, we meet the main character, Leonora, a mostly reclusive crime fiction writer who normally only leaves her flat to go for a daily run. Out of the blue, Nora, receives an email from a girl she has never met named Flo inviting her to a hen do (bachelorette party for those not familiar with British terms) for Clare Cavendish. Nora hasn’t seen or heard from Clare for 10 years (since high school), and is hesitant to attend the hen. Nora and Clare’s mutual friend Nina makes a pact with Nora that they will both go together and leave early if they do not want to stay. There are clues that something major happened which caused Nora (who was actually known as Lee 10 years prior) and Clare to stop speaking and not speak to each other for the past 10 years. When Nora and Nina arrive at the hen to spend the weekend with Clare and three other complete strangers (Clare’s friends), strange things begin to happen. Mix in alcohol and secrets from Clare and Nora’s past, and the plot thickens and twists even more. This book is written so that the pace is quick, switching back and forth between present date with Nora in the hospital suffering from amnesia after a car accident, and the past weekend of the hen do. The setting of the hen adds to the suspenseful nature of the book. The party takes place in what is known as the Glass House. It’s a newly built, modernly furnished home which has glass walls all the way around so that it seems like its occupants are on display for those on the outside. But, the Glass House is in the middle of a heavily wooded, secluded area and there really shouldn’t be any people on the outside in, as it is bitter cold and snowing. So why are there footprints to the garage? I would put this book in a category with other titles such as Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, and Luckiest Girl Alive. Readers are in for a few surprises as Nora starts to remember the details of the final day at the Glass House which caused her to be in the hospital under watch by the police. Also, the ending stopped abruptly, and not the way I thought it would. I would recommend this book for any fans of suspense and thrillers; it’s a great read.