Book Review # 8

The Things We Wished Were True

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Marybeth Whalen

Author Marybeth Whalen holds nothing back as she masterfully weaves concepts such as a scorned lover, an accidental drowning, intense moments of stalking, a torrid love triangle, and a kidnapping in wonderful story that truly has everything. The Things We Wished Were True is a melting pot that reveals a story that is a suspenseful page-turner. The cover of this book barely contains the plot twists as readers are immediately thrown into the many story lines that balance out so well within this book. Normally, I would say that this large amount of layers within one story would be too much for a writer to fully explore, but Whalen makes it all work out.

The novel presents a number of colorful characters with personalities so precise and well defined that you’d swear the author was describing someone you know. First, there is Zel. Zel’s an empty nester who loves to be in the midst of everyone’s business. She means no harm and she isn’t wanting to be as intrusive as she lets on. In Zel’s mind, she’s being useful. But is she really?

Next is Bryte. Bryte is guilty of having stolen her best friend’s boyfriend year’s prior. Drama unfolds as she does all she can to avoid the subject resurfacings of infertility within their marriage. With Bryte becoming pregnant once already, her husband feels they need to try again yet Bryte knows it was not that easy, as she had let on.

Jency is just returning to town after years away. Her homecoming is saddened by her feelings of being broken and alone in the world with the betrayal of her husband. Now, with him in prison and the prestigious life she once lived over, she has to put her two young girls first as she moves home for the support from her parents.

Luke, a single father whose wife has walked out on him, struggles to care for his two children. Even though she left him, he is trying to make it work and not sure if he willing to give up on his marriage, quite yet.

Caylee, an eleven-year-old girl, is tasked with watching her little brother for the summer. However Caylee is only a kid herself and is forced with the consequences that her mother places on her to act more like a parent than a kid.

These neighbors all find themselves spending a hot summer day together at the neighborhood pool. When a little boy nearly drowns, the neighbors soon discover that their lives are far more intertwined than they had ever believed before. As the summer marches on, each person ultimately comes to recognize that the smallest circumstances can in fact matter the most in life.

This book had me guessing from start to finish. The author did a complete job in including each character in the book’s many twists and turns, while also keeping a few surprises just for select characters. In the end, I loved how Marybeth Whalen took a cast of seemingly unconnected people who happened to live in the same neighborhood and weaved them into a tapestry of interdependence and showcased just how connected everyone truly is.   The author’s added descriptions of summer smells and sounds helped me feel at home in the neighborhood she created before me. In the end, I would give this five stars and highly recommend it.

Book Review 7

Summit Lake

By Charlie Donlea

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If you have a need for a murder mystery that will get your heart racing and your blood pumping, then I’ve got the right book for you! Charlie Donlea’s debut novel, Summit Lake, checks every box in what a great suspenseful book needs. I would highly recommend Summit Lake for anyone who loves an exciting murder mystery.

The book opens with the brutal murder of Becca Eckersley, a young woman in the prime of her life. To say this is an intense scene would be an understatement. The detail Donlea uses to paint this setting goes far beyond simple words on a page. This particular backdrop, like many others in the book, becomes an experience that does nothing less than draws readers in further.
It is easy to become invested in this story. Through the use of creative flashbacks, Becca Eckersley’s life is weaved seamlessly within the life of an investigative reporter, Kelsey Castle. The story itself takes place in a little mountain town nestled deeply within North Carolina.

As the story of Becca’s romantic life unfolds, Castle is able to learn that Becca’s perpetual need for male attention is a potential driving force in her investigation. As Kelsey continues to review the case, a connection between herself and the late Becca makes it urgent that Kelsey do all she can to bring justice to the young woman killed in the prime of her life. As if this story needed any further intrigue, it isn’t long before we learn that Kelsey too is running from a troubled past and her involvement in the Eckersley case has become more than just a story to her.

What I loved about Summit Lake was the detailed imagery Donlea used to paint the scenery of North Carolina. Those near and dear to this area (as I am) are always overly critical of its description, and Donlea’s effort really does the state justice. I sometimes find that the overuse of flashbacks and the use of multiple timelines can get repetitive and confusing. That certainly wasn’t the case here! Most of all, this story was not predictable by any means. If I say anymore, I know I’ll start giving away too many important details, so take my word for it and grab this book today.

The next book by Mr. Donlea is set to be released in late April, and I for one am excited about what sort of anxiety he has in store for readers next. As mark of a true mystery writer, Donlea delivers readers countless hours of restless sleep as we come down from the ending of a masterful thriller.

Book Review # 5

The Woman in Cabin Ten

By Ruth Ware

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The name of this book detoured me from picking it up for months. I’d continually see it displayed at Costco, but I simply didn’t want to read about a woman in a cabin in the woods.  The only reason I ever actually looked into this book was when, a few months later, this book was selected as the next read for my book club. I grew more excited about the book after I actually read the synopsis. I could get behind a book that took place on the water. Somehow I got the vibe of Girl on a Train meets the water. Before I’d finished the first chapter, I was hooked and the author did her job of reeling me in like a fish on her line.

Right away Lo, the heroine, is thrown into a dangerous world when her flat becomes a target of a burglary. She is locked in her bedroom and hurt but is eventually able to pick the lock and get to her neighbor’s flat downstairs and call the police.

Needless to say, the attack leaves Lo petrified of the world around her. She decides to leave her flat for the seeming safety and anonymity of her boyfriend’s place. Awoken in the middle of the night by Judah, her boyfriend, she lashes out in a bid to defend her and winds up breaking his nose. The burglary and assault she suffered has truly rattled her more than she could ever expect or articulate and acts as the driving force for the premise of the book.

Fast forward a couple days and Lo, a journalist by trade, finds herself on a ship headed in search of her next story. An unintended result of the burglary is that with the loss of her purse, Lo has also lost a number of items that she has trouble piecing together.   Needing mascara, Lo goes to the cabin next to her own and asks the young woman there if she can borrow her mascara. (That in itself seemed weird. There are just some things you don’t borrow. Borrowing mascara is worse than borrowing someone’s underwear!). This woman resides in the Cabin Ten from the title. After their brief encounter, Lo leaves and doesn’t see the woman again for the rest of the night.

Later, after Lo recounts that she has had too much to drink, (something she often says she won’t do the again) she hears a splash from the side of the boat. Looking over the rail, Lo sees the woman from Cabin Ten sinking to her death. Lo notifies the security team on the lavish boat of what she saw, but they are quick to inform her that no one is registered to Cabin Ten. As a result of this revelation, Lo conducts her own investigation leading to questions no one wants to answer.

Lo, as a main character, is a relatable person that feels real at many points. Her personality has its blemishes, but Lo is able to work beyond her limitations to make her a life successful. Openly suffering from depression and anxiety is just one of the many marks of Lo’s character that many readers may find relatable.  I would say depending on the reader, she is either likable or not likable.

This book rivals others such as Gone Girl and Girl on the Train. I liked this book so much more than I initially expected I would. I did feel it missed a couple marks and didn’t really touch on or take advantage of the suspense that was built during the opening burglary scene. This detail was somehow never tied in with the rest of the book. I really enjoyed this book and it kept me guessing until the end, however, I’m starting to feel that this genre of “girls meets disaster” is becoming a bit over played. As far as The Woman in Cabin Ten goes, I would give it 4 out of 5 stars. It was not the most obvious of choice for my next book, but certainly turned out to be a great “who done it?” read.