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review 2018-01-02 08:31
Just Between Us
Just Between Us - Rebecca Drake

By: Rebecca Drake

ISBN:  9781250167200

Publisher: St.  Martin's Press

Publication Date: 1/9/2018

Format: Paperback

My Rating: 5 Stars 

 

Rebecca Drake returns following Only Ever You with her latest twisty and intense domestic suspense/psychological thriller JUST BETWEEN US. In the theme of Big Little Lies, a story of four suburban mothers who become immersed in a deadly crime. 

Friends and bystanders get more than they bargained for by helping out a friend in need. 

“You never really know what happens in someone else’s marriage.” 

Set in suburban, Pittsburgh, PA readers are introduced to four women: Alison, Julie, Sarah, and Heather. Between their children and husbands, and their busy lives, they love their favorite coffee shop on Friday mornings. Told from four different POVs.

Julie is a multi-million dollar producer–a successful real estate agent married to Brian a VP of business development for a significant medical device firm. She believes in staying positive. Very social, an extrovert and a great organizer. Red-hair and energic. Obsessed with fitness, yoga, and healthy diet.

Sarah is little harder to like (by Alison). A former lawyer, with other hidden issues. Prickly at times. Alison envied the relationship between Julie and Sarah. They had a friendship before she came along. Sarah is beautiful, biracial and wears lots of brightly colored scarves and jewelry. Sarah did not have the patience for whining. She is very can-do and opinionated. She is married to Eric, a teacher and they pinch pennies with a family of five. 

Heather, a former model married to a famous plastic surgeon Viktor. Son Daniel. They have the glamorous life and a large home and staff. She now is a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom), like Sarah, with of course— a much more substantial household income. 

Alison is an IT consultant, and the women think she has an overactive imagination. She is tall and introverted. (She is the most intriguing). My pick. She had little interest in the country-club life or team sports. She comes across a little desperate, lonely, and needy to the others. She and Michael had moved to Pittsburgh because of Michael’s job transfer. No one knew her unfortunate past. The women think she is negative at times. Often her personality rubs Sarah the wrong way. 

Julie and Alison had kept their careers. Sarah and Heather had not. There was a big difference between the disposal income of course between Heather and Sarah. 

Each of the women has their juicy dark secrets. (Heather, in particular). 

Alison is the first to be suspicious of Heather and her bruises. When comforted, she brushes it off. The other women do not seem to suspect a problem with the handsome and charming doctor. Even the broken dishes in the house. Could it have been something sexual she does not want to discuss? 

Should they mind their own business or try and help? Julie thought Alison was wrong. Is Alison too overly cautious due to her family history? 

Even though Heather denies it at first; however, she ultimately confesses. (think Big Little Lies Celeste and Perry Wright). (things do not play out the same.) She pretends all is ok in their household. From the exterior, they looked like the perfect family. 

The friends begin their own sleuthing and investigating into Viktor’s past. His former wife died. However, was it accidental? They slowly discover secrets Heather has not shared until it is too late. Things get complicated. The women fear for her safety and her young son. 

“The strange thing about a secret is it longs to be told.” Suddenly that is all you can think about.

Then the call comes. Someone is dead. 

Self-defense? A crime scene. How involved will they become? There are secrets in every marriage. This is "only" the beginning of the unraveling. 

Nothing, or no one is as they appear. 

“There are no monsters, just deeply flawed people, all of us given that power to choose, some of us making choices to damaging that they ruin the lives of those they claim to love.” 

Drake cranks up the intensity and the adrenaline. She expertly weaves a web of deceit and lies and keeps the reader guessing what will come next. 

You feel the fear and hysteria from each of the women. The mistrust. In the blink of an eye, things change, and everyone is making impulsive decisions which lead to consequences.

At 40-45% into the book, you wonder what could be coming next? Plenty! It is just getting started. 

 



Someone is watching. Were they not careful enough? A letter. Photos. Blackmail. Video Things get very complicated. 

Action-packed, the hidden secrets behind the façade of ordinary women, across social classes and moral lines. How far would you go to protect a friend? Friendships tested. Betrayal. 

Had they been duped? Will they turn on one another? Who can be trusted? Excusing behaviors. 

“Brushing way the inconsistencies in character. Finding plausibility in the implausible because we want to believe the person we love is incapable of ugliness.” 

The lies we tell ourselves and others. Lines are not always clear between good and evil. Perpetrator and victim. 

On a serious note, a peek inside of domestic abuse and violence. It is not always wrapped, in a clear package. 

“We hurt those that we love; we make choices that we can’t undo, we throw ourselves headlong into battles in the name of rescuing people who never asked to be saved.”

With all this sleuthing, not sure how they could find the time for their families. However, I was dying to know what happens. Hooked from page one to the grand finale. 

JUST BETWEEN US, will keep you reading past your bedtime to learn the secrets held close. I enjoyed the different POVs from the women. The drama was balanced nicely with suspense and humor. Some clever twists and turns you are not expecting. Unpredictable. 

I am glad the author chose to end the book with Alison speaking. Very fitting. Underneath the drama, a cautionary tale. The novel is an ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions. 

For fans of Desperate Housewives, and twisty domestic suspense thrillers. A few come to mind:

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen, Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris, The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White, The Good Girl by Mary Kubica, and The Drowning Girls by Paula Treick DeBoard. Looking forward to seeing what comes next!

A special thank you to St. Martin's Griffin and #NetGalley for an advanced reading copy. 

JDCMustReadBooks

 

 

Advance Praise

 

A twisty, domestic thriller [...] tense, bombshell-laden, and action-packed." ― Publisher's Weekly

 

"Female friendships flourish, then falter, under the weight of chance events underlaid by secrecy and deceit [...] Drake shows a sure hand in spinning suburban thrillers." ―Booklist

 

"Rebecca Drake's Just Between Us is suspense at its best--a riveting, fast-paced psychological thriller that brilliantly explores the limits of friendship and the secrets we keep from one another." ― New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline

 

"Fans of Liane Moriarty and B.A. Paris are going to love this twisty, diabolical suburban thriller. Clear your evening, you won't be able to put it down." ― J.T. Ellison, New York Times bestselling author of Lie to Me

 

"Rebecca Drake's Just Between Us is a stunner - a tense, twisty thriller about four ordinary women that begs the question: When a friend is in trouble, and all you want to do is help, how can everything go so terribly wrong?" ― Karen Dionne, author The Marsh King's Daughter

 

"Rebecca Drake's Just Between Us is a riveting thriller that reveals the dark heart beating in the middle of American suburbia. Every character in this rich novel has a secret, and the secrets get deeper and darker as the pitch-perfect plot unfolds. This is a stunning story of friendship and the tangled lies that bind four women together. Don't miss it!" ― David Bell, author of Bring Her Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Photo Credit: Joseph Mertz

 

REBECCA DRAKE is the author of the novels Don’t Be Afraid, The Next Killing, The Dead Place, which was an IMBA bestseller, and Only Ever You, as well as the short story “Loaded,” which was featured in Pittsburgh Noir.

 

A graduate of Penn State University and former journalist, she is currently an instructor in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction M.F.A. program.

 

Rebecca lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with her husband and two children. Read More  

 

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/08/17/Just-Between-Us
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review 2017-02-26 20:16
Beautifully written story of a lost in translation version of the American Dream
Behold the Dreamers - Imbolo Mbue

Thanks to NetGalley and to Harper Collings UK, 4th State for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily review.

This novel, written by an author hailing from Cameroon, like her characters, tells us the story of the Jongas, a family of emigrants trying to make a go of life in the USA, more specifically in New York. Jende strikes it lucky at the beginning and gets a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a big executive for Lehman Brothers. That seems to open many opportunities for Jende and his family, paving the way for all their dreams to come true. Unfortunately, the undoing of Lehman, some personal issues in the Edwards family and the pressure of their unclear immigration status (Jende arrived with a 3 months’ busy that he’s overstayed, his wife has a student visa but they might not have enough money to finance her studies to become a pharmacist and their son would have to go back if the father does) change all that.

The story, written in the third person alternating the points of view of Jende and his wife, Neni, is full of details of the subjective experience of the characters, from the worries about their immigration status, the variety of connections with people from home (from parties, to disinterested advice, emotional support…), their feelings about New York (their favourite places, the cultural shock of confronting new rules, prices, weather, standards and extremes of poverty and richness), their initial shock and later better understanding of the Edwards lifestyle, the educational opportunities and the effect of the stress of their situation on their personal lives.

Both characters are credible, engaging and easy to empathise with, even when we might not agree with their actions and/or decisions. They also have dreams and wishes for their future and their family. To begin with, they both think the USA will change their lives and open up avenues they’d never be able to pursue back home. Jende couldn’t even marry Neni back home and his wife had to live with her parents and had no chance to study. Everything seems possible in the USA, but slowly it becomes clear that things aren’t as straightforward as they thought at first, that being white and rich in America doesn’t equal happiness, and that not everyone is prepared to give them a chance.

There are funny moments and also very sad ones (especially when the couple disagrees and their relationship becomes difficult) and one can’t help but become invested in the story and the future of the couple and their children, who become ersatz members of our family. If at times the Jongas appear as victims of circumstances and a system that they don’t understand, at others they take things into their own hands, and, whatever we might think about what they do, they act. The book is beautifully written and offers an insight into lives that might be different to ours but we can easily share in.

On a personal note, I was a bit disappointed by the ending, not so much by what happens but by how it comes about, and I wasn’t so sure the reactions of the main characters towards the end of the book were totally consistent with the personality they’d shown so far, although it might be possible to see it as a result of the extreme pressures they experience. What that would suggest of the likelihood that their Cameroonian dream will end up becoming a reality is the crux of the matter but something left to the imagination of the readers. The scene towards the end of the book between Clark Edwards and Jende Jonga where they share their future plans (both of them moving on to a future more in keeping with family values and less with work), makes us think of how differently the women of the book see things compared to their men. Gender relations are one of the most interesting and troubling aspects of the novel.

A solid book with great characters that deals with important issues (domestic violence, family relations, cultural differences, immigration, asylum seeking, race relations, the Lehman Brothers and the economic crisis following its fall, the American Dream…), is a joy to read and it will make you consider many those topics from a different point of view.  

 

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review 2016-12-31 03:08
#CBR8 Book 134: How Not to Let Go by Emily Foster
How Not to Let Go - Emily Foster

Spoiler warning! This is a direct continuation of part one of The Belhaven series, How Not to Fall, and while the reader is given enough context to understand what happened in the previous book, it will not make as much sense or have the emotional resonance for the reader unless you have read the first one. Seriously, these books are two halves of a whole story. Also, you will probably get spoilers for the first book in the series in this review. So maybe skip it until you've read part one. It's a really great start to a romance, and I promise you that the second part gives the story a satisfactory ending.

 

At the end of an extremely steamy month of physical intimacy, medical student Annabelle "Annie" Coffey can't help but fall in love with her intense lover, Dr. Charles Douglas, only to be told that due to the horrible abuse he watched his family go through at the hands of his father, and the extreme emotional strain this has had on him, Charles isn't capable of returning her feelings. Their arrangement was always meant to be one month of no strings attached sex, before they went their separate ways, remaining friends. Utterly heartbroken, Annie is in no fit state to maintain any sort of friendship. She leaves Charles without even saying goodbye and goes home to her parents, hurt and devastated, to slowly put herself back together. The couple meet briefly a month later, at Annie's best friend's wedding, and Charles is mortified at how much he has hurt her.

 

They don't have any contact or see each other for nearly a year. Having worked closely together for years before they started their sexual relationship, both deeply miss the company and professional input of the other. Annie keeps writing long e-mails to Charles, but never sends them. She knows he will be at a big conference in London, where she will be presenting, however, and having spent their time apart trying to come to grips with her feelings for him, and recalibrating them, so they might have a chance at a friendship, she reaches out and asks to meet Charles when they are both in England.

 

Back in London for the first time in four years, Charles also has to face his family again. His genius computer programmer brother and his long-suffering, abused mother. When the airport is closed down suddenly as Annie is due to fly back to the US, she ends up staying over at Charles' brother and gets to meet and see for herself just how monstrous his father actually is. She begins to see the challenges Charles struggles against and what is he fighting so desperately not to become.

 

While at least the first two thirds of How Not to Fall is all laughter, intimacy, getting to know each other better, the flutterings of infatuation and a LOT of smexy times, the last third shows that in the face of severe psychological damage, the love of a good woman and an amazing physical connection isn't enough to magically heal.

 

In How Not to Let Go both Annie and Charles have to change and redefine their relationship. Annie has to get over her initial heartbreak and figure out if her heart has lied to her, or if Charles is worth loving and keeping in her life, even if she can never be his partner. It takes her a year of processing and soul-searching before she's ready to consider a friendship with him, despite their continued physical attraction. Charles, on the other hand, is gutted that he ever caused Annie a moment of pain and has spent a year just trying to be worthy of her respect. Through a lot of gruelling therapy, he's started mapping out exactly how messed up his psyche is and how many protective layers there are, keeping him from being able to allow himself to get close to or trust anyone.

 

There is a LOT of pain in this book and several rounds of gruelling emotional exploration. It's quite clear that both Annie and Charles are better together than apart, but Charles has such a long way to go before he can return Annie's love and his family situation really is so very messed up. While the first book was told entirely from Annie's point of view, this one has more or less alternating chapters from Annie and Charles, so the reader gets to fully see inside Charles as he works his way up from the pit of despair, through the swamp and wasteland, up rage mountain to battle the metaphorical dragon, before he can begin to break down the walls surrounding his inner self.

 

With How Not to Fall, I had trouble putting the book down, and kept reading long after it was entirely sensible. I find Annie and Charles such incredibly compelling characters and kept wanting to read more about them. In this book, I occasionally had to take a break, though, as their emotional journey was absolutely exhausting to me. While the first book focuses mostly on Annie, the second book is probably more Charles'. We get to meet Charles' family, his anorexic little sister, who has no end of imagination games to parse out people's inner psyche; his extremely brilliant and sensitive younger brother, who seems to express himself best through piano playing; his lovely mother and see the joy they can share when Charles senior, Lord Belhaven is nowhere near them. We also get to see the contrast in Annie's home life with her incredibly loving and supportive parents.

 

The first book ends on a cliffhanger, when Annie leaves Charles. The second book begins at the same place. Neither book will be entirely satisfying without the other, they are really two halves of a whole story. While some romances get the couple together quickly and spend very little time actually having them get to know each other, the opposite has to be said for Emily Foster. By the end of the book, Annie and Charles have known each other for about four years, and have had their "Thing" for the best end of two. The course of their true love certainly doesn't run smooth, and there is a lot of pain to work through and a whole lot of metaphorical dragon slaying to do before they can have a chance at their HEA.

 

I have no idea if Foster intends to write any more about the younger Charles siblings, but based on their appearances in this book, I would absolutely love to see a book starring Charles' younger brother Simon as a hero, or his wounded but snarky younger sister Elizabeth as a heroine. Preferably both. I know that she primarily writes scientific non-fiction, but based on these two books, it would be a terrible shame if she didn't continue writing realistic and very satisfying romance as well.

 

And with this, I post my final book review of the year. Cannonball 9 starts on January 1st. Anyone interested in participating can sign up here.

 

Judging a book by its cover: How Not to Fall had a couple embracing and kissing in the rain, here the weather is a lot more sunny (possibly indicative of the brighter times faced by the couple towards the very end of the book). It may just be me, but the male cover model reminds me a lot of Ryan Gosling. Charles does not. I forget exactly how Annie is described in the book, but I'm pretty sure the female cover isn't a very good match for her. Nonetheless, it's a sweet and romantic book cover. Doesn't quite match the emotional turmoil of the contents, but there IS a happy ending, so maybe I'm just being overly critical.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/12/cbr8-book-134-how-not-to-let-go-by.html
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review 2016-12-28 12:20
Book Review - Witness, by Caroline Mitchell
Witness - Caroline Mitchell

Having read three crime novels by this author in the past, I was quite intrigued by Witness, as it was described as a thriller rather than crime. I’m not a huge fan of police procedural crime novels, so really wanted to see what I thought of this thriller. Although I did actually enjoy all of the Detective Jennifer Knight series, and the fascinating character of Frank in the first book, Don’t Turn Around, who still stays with me, I have to say that Witness is now my favourite book by this author.

Witness does cover the topic of domestic abuse, so be warned if that is something you feel uncomfortable reading about. However, this novel focusses more on the psychological side of that abuse and the impact that has on the life of the victim and those around them.

Some abusers like to play games. This one definitely does. Prepare yourself for a fast paced and tense game with very dark and real consequences!

I loved this thriller. Found it really hard to put down. I was at about 60% when I went to bed last night, and only planned on reading a few minutes. Two hours later it was 1am and I had completed the book, as I was unable to put it down, despite my head bobbing and eyes repeatedly closing.

I highly recommend this to fans of thrillers and psychological thrillers.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1785792070
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review 2016-08-12 05:19
It Ends with Us
It Ends with Us: A Novel - Colleen Hoover
ISBN: 9781501110368 
Publisher:  Atria 
Publication Date: 8/2/2016
Format: Paperback 
My Rating:  5 Stars +++

 

A special thank you to Atria and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

First, let me begin by saying. I LOVE ATLAS! Unforgettable.He can cook for me any day or night.

Second, this was my first book by Colleen Hoover! (can you believe it)? The first, of MANY more to come. (adding her backlist as quickly as possible). Wow, she is like no author I have ever read. Her style is Unique. Superb. Moving.

Third, IT ENDS WITH US was truly amazing on all levels! Emotionally charged, powerful, compelling! I savored every minute. My Top 10 Books of 2016!

Words cannot adequately describe my feelings about this book. Trust me, move it to the "Top" of your reading list (like now). EPiC in every way. From domestic violence, abuse, control, suspense, obsession, hope, courage, love, healing, understanding, and compassion. An array of emotions from all extremes.

IT ENDS WITH US, opens with Lily Bloom, age twenty-three. She has just buried her father and gave an epically disastrous eulogy- and now she feels she cannot breathe.

Her father is Andrew Bloom, the adored mayor of her hometown of Plethora, Maine. He was the owner of the most successful real estate agency, and the husband of Jenny Bloom, her mother and teaching assistant. He has a violent temper- verbally and mentally abusive. Lily has watched her abusive father beat her mom her entire life. She is escaping to a rooftop in Boston to think and clear her head. Why did her mom stay in this type of relationship all these years.

Lily Bloom once fell in love with a homeless guy (he was a senior in high school). Atlas changed her life. (what a moving story-“award winning”). Her relationship with this nineteen-year-old teen, when she was fifteen, brought shame upon her family. However, it changed her for the better. She will never forget him. She will always love him. What she does not know- he feels the same.

While on the roof that night (present), she meets a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, and they hit it off. They become acquainted with “naked truths.” He is almost thirty years old and no desire for a wife. He does not want children-- the only thing he wants out of life is success. However, there was so much more he was hiding.

Lily does not see him again until much later, after she opens her own florist business and runs into a gal (Allysa)—wealthy husband, hard worker, with a fabulous personality and talks Lily into working with her. Of course, she happens to be the sister of Ryle. They become BFFs very quickly.

Are there really bad people? Is she missing all the signs and the secret tragic- troubled past of Ryle? All those years when she could not understand why her mom put up with her dad’s abuse. She despised her dad. Will she find herself caught in the same situation? When love clouds your judgment. Sometimes it is the one who loves you- who hurts you the most.

Gripping! The author brilliantly crafts a remarkable story. Hoover slowly unravels the past, sprinkled with poignant journal entries from a dairy Lily kept as a girl. She addressed each of her entries to Ellen DeGeneres, (LOVED), because she began watching her show every day when she was just a little girl. Then as she was older, every day after school and was convinced Ellen would love her if she got to know her. She wrote letters to her regularly until she turned sixteen, but wrote them like one would write entries in a diary. She never mailed them.

She swore she would never read them again, but with the passing of her father, she began thinking about her childhood. Somehow Lily wanted to find a little strength for forgiveness, or possibly run the risk of building up more resentment.

Slowly the past is unraveled, keeping readers glued to the pages with the poignant story of Lily and Atlas Corrigan, a senior in high school, and homeless. What happened to these two? Why are they not together now. Both from broken abusive homes, the story will touch your heart, while rooting for these two until the ending. Enter Ryle (love triangle) and more complications.

I kept expecting Ellen to jump out of the pages, before the ending (I think a special Ellen show, is in order. An entire show devoted to IT ENDS WITH US) It would be "fabulous!" Would also make for a great movie.

The author’s writing evokes so many emotions. The past and present connect. A boy and a girl, both drawn together by circumstance, time and space. Torn apart. Will fate bring their paths together again, when they least expects? Lily will learn firsthand of the difficult choices, and decisions her mother had to face.

Does everyone have a little good and evil in them? Darkness and light. From flowers to people, emotions, choices, sacrifices, and lives connected. Understanding women in abusive situations, with compassion, when things are not always black and white as it seems from the exterior. In domestic abuse, how many times do you forgive? When do you walk away? Each person is defined by their past. All characters are flawed in some way. Inspiring!

Loved the note from the author. Compelling, perplexing, and ultimately uplifting! I loved ATLAS!. He is too good to end…I hope we hear more from him in the future.

A mix of contemporary, domestic suspense, and romance. This one tops the list in women’s fiction. A must read for every woman, no matter your age. Strong family, mother-daughter, and relationships.

I loved IT ENDS WITH US so much, purchased the audiobook narrated by Olivia Song for a moving repeat experience. A perfect title.  For fans of Sarah Pekkanen, Paula Treick DeBoard, Nicholas Sparks, and Amy Hatvay.  

JDCMustReadBooks

 

 



Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/#!It-Ends-With-Us/cmoa/5786eac20cf23020133c69a6
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