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review 2016-05-18 01:20
The Girl Who Came Back
The Girl Who Came Back: A Novel - Susan Lewis
ISBN: 9780345549570
Publisher: Random House 
Publication Date: 6/7/2016 
Format: Paperback 
My Rating: 5 Stars


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

Susan Lewis returns following Too Close to Home (2015)with another gripping edge-of-your-seat psychological suspenseTHE GIRL WHO CAME BACK—a family’s idyllic life, shattered in a million pieces. A mother’s desperate need for justice for her daughter, from a twisted evil monster. MIND-BLOWING!

Prologue: As the book opens we meet Amelia briefly. A nine-year-old disturbed girl, who wasn’t like other children. She stared at people, never laughed or no excitement. Little seemed to amuse her and she always wanted what was not hers. Amelia did not speak much even to her mother, Olivia. She chatted away with her father, Anton, when he made the time. She was sullen and shy. She did not fit in with other kids. Then one day . . . the unspeakable. Murder.

Chapter One begins sixteen years later. Jules Bright answers the door—Detective, Andee Lawrence delivers a message. Amelia Quentin is being released from prison. The detective is every bit as appalled as Jules, when the wheels of justice had turned the way they had almost three years ago.

Now the murderer is returning to Crofton Park. Julies Bright could not believe she murderer could even consider stepping foot in this place again. Her sentence was an outrage. They had been cheated a proper trial. Jules' and her husband, Kian--their horrific tragedy and demise of a family at the hands of a lunatic, Amelia Quentin. She received parole and she has not even served three years!

A dark and disturbing mind a plot, a conspiracy-the unraveling begins, as the author takes us back to the crime three years earlier. We also meet Daisy, who lives at the Mermaid pub, a happy child and a lovable family. Befriends a girl her opposite, Amelia.

From past to present we meet a cast of characters from childhood to adulthood. It all started with a text, the arrest, and the trial. Revenge. The death of a beloved daughter, and a friend to many.

Hatred, resentment, and the need to hurt, even destroy, the girl continues to burn holes through Jules, the mother. Was Amelia even capable of remorse? Jules knows if she had been a part of any other family without the money, she would have had no privileges or early release, much less her big fake comeback.

Manipulative Amelia is trying to turn the tables, once again with her evil, twisted lies. What gave her the right to take her daughter’s life, and her family? She watches as she goes through the elegant iron gate, so perfect and tranquil and no one would have guessed that a killer was in the vicinity, hidden like a sick predator, or a poison in the air.

Jules: If anyone was going to avenge Daisy’s killing, it would be her. A mother torn apart by grief, crushed by the system that had robbed her of proper justice, traumatized by the proximity of her nemesis, besieged by Facebook posts and attempted visits to her old home. In the light of all she had been subjected to -would it come as a surprise to anyone that she’d lost all sense of reason? How could she be accountable for her actions? Maybe she’d be tried for voluntary manslaughter—with provocation. Who else wants revenge?

Amelia and Dean had been arrested at the scene of the crime and were later charged with joint-enterprise murder. Amelia had set up Daisy and Dean as part of her conspiracy. Sick and twisted. (now this is one complex story). Dean was remanded into custody and Amelia was released on bail--for murder. She had sent the text that had tricked Daisy into going to her house. Fifteen stab wounds had been inflicted by the same left hand. Amelia was left-handed. Dean was not. Rape? How did you set up such a sick plan?

Amelia’s father was connected in places that mattered, a lawyer. Amelia had tricked them all. Obsessed with another girl's life and family. Daisy was no longer with them, and unable to pursue her dreams and live her life. No one had the right to take that from her and yet Amelia had decided that she did. A calculating murdering lunatic.

Jules received letters from Dean, the first week of his sentence with details of what happened. They all knew there was something horribly wrong with Amelia—sick, a maniac, a psychopath. Dean is tortured by the events---received ten years, and Daisy five. Out in three.

Families ripped apart by this monster. How would they prove she killed her mom and Daisy? The most heartbreaking parts of leaving the Mermaid had been forcing herself to let go of Ruby. She had believed that Ruby was passing messages to Daisy to keep them connected. (magical realism here).

Their lives remained in pieces in so many ways, while Amelia Quentin was allowed to start hers all over again—to choose another generous-hearted girl to befriend and butcher. A mother’s vengeance. Justice for Daisy and Dean.

Will a broken family bond over their tragedy, or move further away from one another? However, there may be others who want justice just as much as the Bright family. Could there be a larger plan in motion—will fate step in and the nightmare finally be over?

WOW! Susan Lewis just keeps getting better and better. Not sure how anyone cranks out so many books—she has a special gift. Intense, dark, gritty, disturbing, and emotional, mixed with psychological twists and turns—leaving you holding your breath. I was still reading through the night, finishing at 4 am...racing to the end.

The strong love of parents, and one cold twisted gal--she could turn on a dime- your head will be spinning. A haunting and gripping tale, vivid settings and well-developed characters….and did I mention plot(s)? If you have not read Susan previously, definitely start.

Fans of Lisa Jewell, Diane Chamberlain and Heather Heather Gudenkauf will enjoy the complex multi-layered tale and domestic suspense. (my favorites). This may be Lewis' most intense yet! A cautionary tale for parents and teens, alike. Be careful who you befriend--it could prove deadly.


Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/#!The-Girl-Who-Came-Back/cmoa/56e8c0c90cf2bc133ba15089
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review 2016-04-23 23:58
Untethered - Julie Lawson Timmer
ISBN:  9780399176272
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date:  6/7/2016
Format: Other
My Rating:  4 Stars
A special thank you to Penguin and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Julie Lawson Timmer returns following her heart-wrenching debut, Five Days Left, landing on my Top 30 Books of 2014,with UNTETHERED -- an emotional domestic suspense of blended families and the powerful ties that bind.

Char Hawthorn, had a great life. A freelance editor, happily married to a college professor, Bradley and stepmother to his Allie, a fifteen-year-old in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

However, when her perfectionist husband dies suddenly in a car accident, she is left to pick up the pieces and contend with Allie’s biological mother, Lindy. The threat she may be separated from her step-daughter with a pending move to California. Her step-mom is not mother quality.

In the meantime, there is another storyline creating tensions. Allie’s connection to Morgan, a ten-year-old-girl she has been tutoring—a troubled girl caught up in foster care, now adopted, who self-harms. Char attempts to hold it all together throughout the drama.

There are cracks and fissures, with non-traditional family units; grief, struggles, emotions, relationships, balancing, defining roles, failings, trials, and those caught in the middle and crossfires.

From emotionally abused children, special needs, motherhood, step-parenting, frustrations and resentments-- a suspenseful exploration of the human psyche, its complexities, and the resilience of family, with a domestic psychological literary twist.

Timmer once again explores what makes a family means, and the outcome when bonds are tested.
Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/#!Untethered/cmoa/565d35430cf2099ad66e258f
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review 2016-04-21 17:49
Eligible: A modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice - Curtis Sittenfeld
A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice 
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell 
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date:  4/19/2016
Format: Other
My Rating: 5 Stars 


Curtis Sittenfeld’s 21st century modern-day version of Jane Austen’s classic “Pride and Prejudice” ELIGIBLE is cleverly crafted, entertaining, and deliciously witty with its eccentric cast of characters.

Pride and Prejudice retains a fascination for modern readers, continuing near the top of lists of "most loved books." All about manners, upbringing, morality, education, romance, and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of the British Regency in an English countryside. Modern interest in the book has resulted in a number of dramatic adaptations and an abundance of novels and stories imitating Austen's memorable characters or themes.

With a switching of aristocrats with Ivy-League doctors, and the reality TV show Eligible, a mother still insists on her daughters' marrying rich, (in a different manner)---along with some "all too true" social and materialism of suburban Americans today, mixed with a highly dysfunctional wacky family--it works!

Note to fans of the original—do not feel disloyal or compare. You can read Eligible guilt-free. It is ok to love the light-hearted modern comedy version, and remain true to the Jane’s literary version.


Cassandra Campbell breathes life into each of the characters with her stunning performance! Highly recommend the audiobook. This is a lengthy book with multiple chapters--the audio is a great way to keep you engaged hours on end, while multi-tasking. A perfect narrator, fitting for each of the voices. Some great laughs. 

Eligible was commissioned by the Austen Project, which has been pairing contemporary authors with various Austen works. A series that pairs contemporary novelists with Austen’s six works.

Curtis Sittenfeld, American takes on the challenge with style and courage--recreating the contemporary life of the Bennet's in the affluent suburbs of Cincinnati, OH in 2013.

Similar to the 1813 original, we meet a strong heroine, Elizabeth Bennet (Liz), age 38-years-old, a freelance journalist with a women’s magazine, Mascara in New York. She was involved in an affair with a married man. She is independent, feisty, and says what is on her mind.

Jane is sweet, approaching 40-years-old, a yoga instructor in New York, as well, and currently undergoing artificial insemination from an anonymous sperm donor. Liz and Jane have returned to the family home in Cincinnati after their father suffered from a heart attack.

There are four sisters, various men, and a social-climbing obnoxious mother Mrs. Bennet (online shopping addition) which wants nothing more than to maintain her country club status—keeping up appearances, and have her daughters marry into the proper life of wealth and prestige.

Mary (recluse; taking online classes) Kitty and Lydia (Crossfit--millennials, oversharing, social media, texting, painting nails, shallow)--- all still live at home—not much here until towards the end when the three take off giving Mrs. Bennet more shockers. (Black guy, transgender).

The father, Mr. Bennet, is sardonic, self-absorbed and the family is in complete financial ruin, keeping his wife and family in the dark, (clueless) of their status…plus they do not have health insurance. His wife and three grown daughters live at home—all jobless--he is paying their way digging them further in debt.

Liz and Jane are close to age forty, further challenging the clock ticking baby making and marriage subject. None of the girls are married and no prospects. This makes Mrs. Bennet very displeased. However, she may get more than she bargained for by the end of the book.

Centered around a reality TV dating show, Eligible, (similar to The Bachelor) --Chip Bingley (Harvard Medical School) a celebrity, handsome bachelor (ER doctor) from a wealthy family is back in town after a not so pleasant experience on the show along with his rich, arrogant, and handsome friend, Darcy (a neurosurgeon—mega loaded). Mrs. Bennet is practically drooling to match up her daughters for marriage to this set.

Liz and Darcy play the cat and mouse game—fueled with love/hate. Romance-American Style--Some great one liners here. Jane/Bingley fall for each other; however, there is the baby (sperm donor) and he is on a dating reality show—no go there, until later.

In the midst of all the drama--the medical bills of Mr. Bennett, a pregnancy, and Liz has to step in to take control, put the house up for sale and get the other two sisters off their butt for employment.

The novel closes with a "happily-ever-after" chapter including a summary of the remaining lives of the main characters, similar to the original. Carolina doesn't encourage her brother's admiration toward Jane as in the original, with a different twist.

Love this cartoon


My thoughts: You have to commend Sittenfeld for tackling this major undertaking; after all, it was not meant to be the same.

With the hype of fan fiction re-living the imaginary characters, the author delivers realistically what it would be like in today’s world with dysfunctional families faced with all sorts of issues, from dating, racism, bigotry, transgender, sperm cell donors, financial woes, living above your means, marriage, children living at home, boomers, and in the end--- love of family mixed with wit, to balance the crazy.

Just as Austen’s take on snobbery and social standing of Regency England; Sittenfeld exposes materialism of American suburban life in today’s world—in the same fashion.

Also, a good indication of the today older generation (Mrs. Bennet's) take on the liberal younger generation. She is old fashioned and about keeping up social appearances, snobbery--even if you have to lie. With five daughters from the ages of twenty something to forty, she is appalled none of them are married.

Had to snicker: My mom asked me via phone call, the previous day, “What in the heck is a transgender”? —she is 84 and lives in NC—A conversation in reference to: A federal appeals court ruling on transgender bathroom access in public schools threatens a key provision of a North Carolina law limiting protections for the LGBT community. Plus, my mom is appalled my niece is dating a black guy, and afraid she will bring him by her house, when she is in town—"Oh my, what will the neighbors think?"

I was laughing out loud about Darcy/Mrs. Bennett "cleft palate" relation to transgender, to sooth the situation. I should have taken a line from the book, to appease my elderly conservative mom. (especially since her brother was born with cleft palate). Fitting, you think?

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/#!Eligible/cmoa/56e226b80cf26c26a9f2e893
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review 2016-04-03 23:18
Don't Say A Word
Don't Say a Word (Strangers Series) - Jennifer Minar-Jaynes

By: Jennifer Jaynes


Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Publication Date: 5/3/2016

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars 


Talented crime writer, Jennifer Jaynes returns following Never Smile at Strangers, and Ugly Young Thing with her “best yet”- DON’T SAY A WORD, an enthralling psychological crime mystery suspense thriller, guaranteed to keep you glued to the pages from the first page, to the explosive ending- leaving you breathless!

Allie Callahan has not had an easy life. An orphan, with a horrific past and childhood—her mom and brother suffered from mental illness. In her younger years, she even attempted to end her own life, when left all alone to face the brutal world. She still has scars and fears.

At sixteen, she was given the opportunity to have a real life. A real family. A new start. She was adopted by her kind older foster mom, Bitty Callahan. She loves and respects her. A home she has always dreamed of.

Now twenty-two, Allie and her young son, Sammy and dog Piglet--- reside with Bitty, in their comfortable home in Texas. She is putting her demons behind her. However, she has to continue to put the old unhealthy voices from her biological mother aside. Bitty always taught her, “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.”

Allie always feared losing her mental health and become incapable of being the type of mother her four- year- old son, Sammy deserved. Sammy was her reason for living. For everything. Allie was excited about the new chapter in her life, in terms of her career, she was following in Bitty’s footsteps as a wellness practitioner. She was drawn to the work for many reasons, but mainly because it was rewarding and flexible.

As the book opens there is a brutal murder. Two twelve-year-old twin girls (Zoe and Carrie), are left in their home alone for days with their murdered parents. They are traumatized. When the authorities arrive, the girls are sent by child protective service to reside in foster care with Bitty.

Allie was a little nervous, when foster children came to stay. She always felt uneasy each time a new kid arrived; however, she could not tell Bitty. Allie admired the fact Bitty fostered kids. Bitty had given her a second chance at happiness—a chance most kids with past like hers never got. So she would help any way she could. She owed it to Bitty.

The twins are NOT ordinary. They were coming from the rich Sherman Landing area nearby. Even though the girls had lived in a poor white trash trailer park, their deceased dad had recently won $1.2 million dollars. From drugs and abuse from mom, and truck driver dad, on the road the majority of the time.

When the caseworker brought the girls to stay with the Callahan's, they soon learned the girls are very disturbed. Carrie would not speak and very withdrawn. Zoe tended to be more outspoken, and even manipulative, at times. Could she trust them around her son? Zoe-dissociative amnesia. Carrie selective mutism.

Due to their trauma, the caseworker mentioned in addition to their parent’s murder, the younger brother was hit by a truck and killed three years earlier and the girls witnessed the tragic event. The grandmother wants nothing to do with them. Total dysfunction.

From detectives, forensic therapist, Child Advocacy, and caseworkers-- everyone was involved in the case. Allie knew all too well, people never healed from the horror of murder. Not completely. Allie always helped Bitty with the foster children—she was never emotionally invested. This time she becomes involved.

As the investigation continues, Gary, the mom’s boyfriend shows up, putting them all in danger. Allie’s former boyfriend, Johnny (Sammy’s dad) shows up without any notice, and she is ready to put him out of her life. Their personal lives and home become insanity. A check written for seven hundred thousand the day before the murders?

Prone to depression and anxiety attacks, Allie had learned to control her thoughts before they spiraled out of control. However, since the twins came to live with them, nothing is normal. Strange phone calls, cars, hang ups, and weird behavior with both girls. Another murder. Since she laid eyes on these girls, the whole safe world that had taken her years to build felt as flimsy as a house of cards.

There is tension between the twins, and something is not right. Carrie was more self-conscious (Allie can relate to her, if she will let her in). Carrie has been cutting herself and is slowly slipping away. Zoe tends to want to bond with Allie; more confident--her personality goes from good to bad.

Allie wants to trust the girls around her son Sammy, however, she is overprotective. Is she putting him in danger around the girls? From blood-curdling shrieks, screams--the girls needed her help—she could not deny them; she can sympathize—she has been there; however, is she putting her life and her son’s in harm’s way?

Who really murdered the twin's parents?

Wow, this is one intense saga---secrets and lies. Flashing back and forth we hear from the time prior to the murders. Slowly the author cleverly peels back the layers of the events leading up to the murders. Nothing is as it appears.

Chilling, dark, gripping, shocking, and un-put-downable!When I looked up from the book for the first time 50% through the book. From 50%-75%, the intensity is mind-blowing. From 75% to the ending, fast-paced action--twists and turns you do not see coming! You are totally invested in the characters—Damaged with a Capital “D”. Forget about sleeping.

With Allie’s delicate complex and tortured past, co-mingled with the twins domestic current and past mental situation, strongly emphasizing the psychology of its characters and their unstable emotional states. Obsessive, pathological, moral conflicts, fear and anxiety are strong drivers. No one can write EVIL better than Jennifer.

I enjoyed hearing from Sammy's perspective; a four-year-old’s view (priceless), as well as Zoe, Carrie, and Allie. (Since the author is a mother of younger twins, she shines here). Sammy is full of wonder and curiosity- very observant. You will love him and want to give him a big hug. He likes to spy on others. He is innocent and he thinks it is fun. A cautionary tale for mothers--you never know what secrets your child may be keeping. A strong mother’s love. Sammy is her priority.

You will love Bitty, and readers root for Allie, to the end--and sympathize with her situation. Hoping Allie will find some happiness in the next book with a possible new budding romance with the sexy Detective. (Knowing Jaynes, it will not be a smooth road). Can't wait.


If you are looking for a scary crime thriller that send chills down your spine, leaving you on the edge of your seat until the very end---this one is for you.

A mix of Gothic, domestic, crime, psychological, detective, action, drama, horror, suspense, mystery, and thriller. The author rocks! Integrating personal character elements into mystery and suspense, toeing the line between a dramatic character study and a plot structure you'd expect from a strong psycho-crime horror thriller movie. (would make for a great Prime series).

For fans of Mark Edwards, Kathryn Croft, Lisa Unger, and Jennifer Hillier.

Recommend reading Jennifer’s first two books above, while awaiting the release date of her third installment. Even though Don’t Say A Word, may be read as a standalone -the author does an outstanding job of getting you up to speed; however, in order to really get a good grasp of the main protagonist, you will want to read the previous books----All three are top quality!

The author just keeps getting better (if this is possible). Thanks Jennifer, all your efforts have not gone unnoticed. A winner! 5 Stars +

A special thank you to the author and publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/#!Dont-Say-a-Word/cmoa/569e47de0cf20b5fa8ea9832
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review 2016-03-28 01:48
The Nest
The Nest - Cynthia D`Aprix Sweeney
ISBN: 0062414216
Publisher: Ecco/Harper Collins
Publication Date: 3/22/2016
Format: Other
My Rating: 5 Stars 
THE NEST, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s debut is a riot- Empty nesters (boomers)-holders of "the nest, and a younger generation of four adult-siblings faced with a shocker-“empty nest trust fund.”

In a bird's nest, life's metaphor. An example of a family-- people who aren’t doing what they love, aren’t going after their dreams and are living a life of fear.

Emotional and complex, filled with dark comedy, wit and drama- a look inside today's contemporary family of adult siblings, living beyond their means. Dysfunctional behavior, money, entitlement, and disaster.

The Plumbs are four semi-estranged New York siblings. Each have their own set of life problems—from sex, careers, personal, to financial. We hear from dysfunctional Beatrice, Jack, Melody, and Leo -- their intimate lives are exposed, layer by layer.

Melody, Jack and Bea are in debt and counting on "The Nest" to solve their problems. Leo, is the selfish and narcissistic one. Melody has twins with her own set of problems—college for the twins, house poor; Jack, antiques dealer is hiding things from his partner, and Bea, novelist has her own woes with work and love.

They all have been looking forward (expected and needed)-The Nest. An inheritance with a nice sum. The time is approaching. However, the bad news—the son Leo gets himself into some trouble (an accident)—big trouble (drug-and-alcohol-sex induced car accident) which ultimately, drastically reduces the sum each will receive from The Nest, due to his misdeeds.

Does Leo plan on paying them back?

With some scandalous sex, lesbian scenes, booze, rehab, drugs, lovers, money, entitlement, and financial woes---Sweeney, wows everyone with her stunning, brutally honest, well-written, and hilarious debut. You will laugh out loud at the dramas of family, and relationships.

From misery, self-absorption, debt, real estate, parenting, relationships, college funds, expectations, trust, and betrayal—A trust fund meant to be the answer to the Plumb’s prayers, the author brings the characters to life for a close look at life, family, and relationships. What is left…who is circling like vultures?

Leo's sisters and brother are hoping that Leo can replenish the trust fund—however, selfish Leo has his own secrets with money stashed away; "sharing" is not in his plan.

Along this journey, we meet a cast of other characters in connection with the Plumb siblings. From pressure, scandal, self-destruction, mistakes, blame, to realistic expectations. Sweeney weaves each of the sibling’s stories with lots of wit, and tragedy for a book full of heart and soul. As the four come together to save their inheritance, Sweeney shows the power of family and how wealth can affect our choices and relationships.

Like baby birds, high in a tree, a bird's nest. Each is a part of a nest; family, friends, careers, choices, and relationships. Each nest has different dynamics but ultimately they will all have a very similar possible outcome. When we are all in the nest together, we rely the mama bird (parents), to provide and keep everyone happy and safe. However, when each bird flies on their own everyone fears--some try to pull you back into the nest. Some will not return, and some want the nest to be there for them, to return; when they have failed to build their own successfully.

As we reach the age of settling our parent’s estates, inheritance, emotions run high, and pretty much a given, siblings will disagree—with tensions. Family and money are two subjects which will raise tempers and get the blood pressure rising. Always a bad egg, a screw up, in the family somewhere.

Loved reading the inspiration for the novel and how a woman of 50 goes back to school to write. And wow, what a successful debut—an inspiration for other aspiring authors and writers in mid-life! There is much experience within the lines, only a writer of this age could convey.

I listened to the audio version and Mia Barron delivers an engaging and entertaining performance. While listening to the novel, walking Downtown along Clematis, through all the outdoor sidewalk cafes and bars--people enjoying brunch and cocktails---I had to smile thinking of everyone I passed, could be one of these four adult siblings.

Would make for a great movie! Cannot wait for more from this breakout author. Believe the hype- big screen worthy.


Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/#!The-Nest/cmoa/56c679190cf247432448d5fb
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