Book Review: The Stranger in the Mirror by Liv Constantine

The Stranger in the Mirror
by
Liv Constantine

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Suspenseful psychological thriller about a woman with amnesia, who builds a new life for herself, only to be confronted by her past. Many twists, plus the absolutely required suspension of disbelief, take you on a wild ride of new developments, just when you’re getting comfortable with how things are.

The story begins when a strikingly beautiful and vulnerable young woman finds herself on a highway in New Jersey, injured and with no memory of how she got there. A trucker named Ed picks her up and fortunately, he’s the good kind. Wanting to do the right thing, Ed and his wife, Gigi take the young woman into their home in Philadelphia.

Ed and Gigi provide loving support while the young woman recovers and struggles with questions about her injuries and disturbing flashbacks. After the woman recovers from her physical injuries, the new “Addison Hope” begins a job at a photography store. While working, she meets Gabriel Oliver, a gallery owner from a wealthy family. It’s instant attraction. Gabriel and Addison fall in love and Gabriel proposes. Gabriel may be smitten, but his mother, Blythe is suspicious. She wants to love Addison, but Blythe’s protective instincts tell her that they must know more about this woman before she joins the family.

Meanwhile, Julian Hunter, a prominent doctor from Boston, has not given up hope that he will find his missing wife, Cassandra, mother to their seven-year-old daughter, Valentina. A chance discovery reveals, as the reader has already figured out, that Addison has another life in Boston. Readers see how the two families react to this news, especially Addison/Cassandra. The interesting part is how Gabriel, Blythe, Julian and Valentina adjust, as a lurking evil overshadows them all.

Constantine’s characters represent the good, the evil and the manipulated, and a few who do the right thing but for selfish reasons. And the story’s villain, while somewhat obvious, acts unpredictably with a twisted set of ideas. The author includes themes of marriage, family and parenthood, especially what it means to be a good mother. Problems of mental health and domestic violence show the repetitive nature of these family struggles.

The Stranger in the Mirror is a fast read, with an interesting premise. In the first half, the author lulls the reader into a false sense of security, only to pull out the rug and disrupt the characters’ lives. The second half of the book is filled with twists and reveals, many too outrageous to believe. But the story moves along to a satisfying conclusion.

Liv Constantine is the pen name of sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine. They are also the author of The Last Mrs. Parrish, The Last Time I Saw You, and The Wife Stalker.

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Book Review: The Perfect Wife by Blake Pierce

The Perfect Wife
by
Blake Pierce

Rating: 3 out of 5.

If you’re looking for a quick psychological suspense novel, you might be interested in The Perfect Wife by Blake Pierce, the first in the Jessie Hunt series. In this debut, Jessie Hunt and her husband Kyle Voss have moved from Los Angeles to a wealthy neighborhood in the coastal town of Westport Beach. Kyle is a rising star at the wealth management firm where he works. Jessie is about to finish her degree in forensic psychology and has lined up a practicum at the Non-Rehabilitative Division, a high-risk unit at the local state hospital. Jessie will conduct a series of interviews with Bolton Crutchfield, a convicted serial killer.

Kyle is all about climbing the ladder and they soon join the local yacht club where he hopes to make lucrative business contacts. But Jessie senses something strange about the yacht club and thinks her new friends and neighbors have too many secrets.

As Kyle submerges himself in work, Jessie conducts interviews with Crutchfield, who seems to know too much about her and her weaknesses. Is there some connection the reader doesn’t know about? At home, tension grows between Jessie and Kyle and a fateful decision after a wild yacht club party brings it all to a head, revealing all.

This is a short and fast-paced thriller in which Pierce’s characters are just coming to life. Although characters are not fully developed and the plot line is wild and unbelievable, the story moves well and is a solid 3-star read.

I recommend The Perfect Wife to readers who enjoy series debuts and like to see how characters may develop in future stories.

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Audiobook review: The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn, read by Ann Marie Lee

The Woman
in the Window
by
A. J. Finn

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Here’s a quick audiobook review of The Woman by the Window by A. J. Finn, read by Ann Marie Lee. This is a suspenseful psychological thriller set in New York about a woman who has suffered an unexplained tragedy and now lives apart from her husband and young daughter. An agoraphobic, she hasn’t left her house in nearly a year. Instead, she watches old Hitchcock movies, drinks wine, self-medicates and spies on her neighbors through the zoom lens of a powerful camera. One day, she sees something terrible through the window of a new family’s home. When she tries to report it, no one believes her and she begins to wonder if she imagined it. Her increasingly frantic, and unreliable narrative places the reader (and listener) in the mind of an unraveling trained psychologist who can’t treat herself properly.

Through interactions with her family, psychiatrist, online chess players, fellow agoraphobes, her physical therapist, neighbors and the man who rents her basement apartment, Dr. Anna Fox’s back story comes into focus. But while the details of her story may become clear, what isn’t clear is whether she saw what she thought she saw. Readers may want to believe her because she describes the details so vividly, but there’s a lot else going on with the neighbors and her tenant to cause suspicion. As Fox continues to drink recklessly and down her medications in fistfuls, Finn propels Fox towards a tense showdown between her own demons and others.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to The Woman in the Window. Ann Marie Lee is a fantastic narrator of this excellent story. She effectively portrays a wide variety of characters, scenes and emotions and I was gripped throughout. One particularly emotional scene towards the end is especially convincing. I also like how Finn ties the old movies she watches into the plot, particularly Rear Window and Vertigo.

The unreleased 2020 film of The Woman in the Window is directed by Joe Wright and stars Amy Adams and Gary Oldman. It’s scheduled to be released on Netflix in 2021. Read more about the film here and here. I’m looking forward to watching it!

I recommend The Woman in the Window to readers and listeners who like psychological thrillers, though I wouldn’t recommend listening while you’re driving – it’s that engrossing!

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Book Review: Woman on the Edge by Samantha M. Bailey

Woman on the Edge
by
Samantha M. Bailey

Rating:

The last thing Morgan Kincaid expects while waiting for a Chicago subway train is for someone to come up to her, thrust a baby in her arms and jump in front of a train. Nicole Markham’s last words to Morgan are, “I know what you want. Don’t let anyone hurt her.” And then she calls Morgan by her name.

Morgan, a social worker, could see desperation in the woman’s eyes. But who was she, how did she know Morgan’s name? What made her give up her baby and take her own life?

Those are the simple questions, believe it or not, but both women’s back stories complicate the investigation even more and soon Morgan is a person of interest. Morgan is determined to clear her name, at great risk.

What a great premise for a psychological thriller! This is a fast-paced read, with plenty of momentum. I don’t want to give too much away because these books are better to experience first-hand. There’s a good supply of suspicious secondary characters with questionable agendas that kept me wondering how the story would sort itself out.

The psychological aspect plays into Nicole’s story. She’s just had a baby and is having trouble remembering things. She’s also the CEO of a publicly-traded company called Breathe which sells yoga wear and mindfulness products. Her assistant is keeping things running while she’s out, but there’s a power struggle going on behind the scenes

I enjoyed reading this debut novel. I thought the plot was well-developed, and the author did a good job typing up loose ends at what was a wild finish, requiring the standard suspension of disbelief. I thought the details of Nicole’s work situation were a little silly, however, but that’s something readers need to go along with, rather than get bogged down by an unrealistic scenario.

I like the double play of the title, too. And, while not a heavy book, the author touches on important themes of marriage, betrayal and most importantly, postpartum depression. I recommend Woman on the Edge to readers who like quick thrillers and look forward to reading future books by Bailey.

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Book Review: No Place Like Home by Rebecca Muddiman

No Place Like Home
by
Rebecca Muddiman

Rating:

Polly Cooke can’t wait to make her new house a home. She’s thirty-five and is starting a new chapter. As she walks home from the bus stop, she dreams of settling in for the night, but Polly is startled to see a shadow in the window of her house. Is someone inside?

And so begins Polly’s nightmare of moving into her dream house. With jumps between the recent past and the present, Polly narrates the details of her life. Her job is nothing special, but it’s a job. Her mother is in a home care center, with signs of dementia. And Polly is raw from a past relationship. This house is the perfect chance at a fresh start, if she can keep the past out of it, especially the man she sees watching her and suspects has been inside.

As this psychological thriller unfolds, the reader puts together a few pieces, but there are many questions. One of the things I enjoy about thrillers is watching the main character make foolish and reckless decisions. I kept saying to myself, “Polly, just call the police!” and “Close your drapes all the way—don’t peek out like that!”

Polly is so rattled by these events that she misses a lot of work and puts her job in jeopardy. And Polly’s mother seems to be declining from her daughter’s neglect. These two simmering situations add to the impending doom and the reader can only hope that Polly can take control. Secondary suspicious characters, like the nosy neighbor, the controlling nurse at the care center and former roommates raise more questions as to who’s behind Polly’s problems.

This is a fast-paced thriller with the usual twists and turns and a big scene at the finish. But what I enjoyed the most was a clever and unexpected double twist in the story. The author does a good job creating a situation with built-in suspense and turning it into an original story. Don’t expect a lot of character development. There’s just enough to support the plot and keep the story moving.

I enjoyed No Place Like Home. The title suggests what it’s about and the reader is treated to something a little more than that. I recommend this thriller to readers who are looking for a quick diversion.

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Book Talk – No Place Like Home by Rebecca Muddiman

Image: Pixabay

Welcome to an occasional feature on Book Club Mom called Book Talk, home to quick previews of books that catch my eye.

I’m feeling a little guilty about not reading some of the NetGalley books I’ve received. This psychological thriller is one of them. I had a perfectly good plan to read it right away, but somehow No Place Like Home got lost on my Kindle, along with the other mess of books I have on there.

Here’s the book description:

“What would you do if you came home to find someone in your house?

This is the predicament Polly Cooke faces when she returns to her new home. The first weeks in the house had been idyllic, but soon Jacob, a local man, is watching her.

What does he want and why is he so obsessed with Polly?

In a situation where nothing is what it seems, you might end up regretting letting some people in.”

This is the kind of book that seizes on the reader’s need to be terrified. We all get a thrill from reading about someone else’s scary situations, right?

I have a few other books I’m going to read first, but I think I’m going to jump on this soon. At 234 pages, it looks like a quick read.

No Place Like Home was published in 2018. Check out these reviews. I’m going to wait in case they have spoilers!

Laurel-Rain Snow from Rainy Days and Mondays
Goodreads Reviews
Amazon Reviews

Have you already read No Place Like Home?

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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient
by
Alex Michaelides

Rating:

Alicia Berenson does something strange after she kills her husband. She stops talking. Not another word. Nothing to the London police, to her lawyer, and still now, years later, nothing to the doctors at the Grove, the psychiatric ward where she lives. Before the murder, they lived the good life. Alicia was a well-known artist and her husband, Gabriel, was a famous photographer. Now she sits silent. The only clue to explain her actions is a self-portrait, painted a few days after the murder.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist and he’s been obsessed with Alicia’s case from the beginning. So he jumps when a job opens up at the Grove. The doctors have given up on her, but Theo is determined to get Alicia to speak. Despite warnings from his boss, Theo digs so deep into Alicia’s psyche he may not be able to free himself.

What a great set-up for a suspenseful psychological thriller! I tore through this fast-paced story because I was both engrossed in the plot and anxious to see what Michaelides’ characters would do. The story is told from both Theo’s and Alicia’s perspectives, with Theo as the narrator and through Alicia’s journal entries. Readers will need to do some work, however, because they won’t get the full story from either, not until the finish where a final and unexpected twist explains it all.

Although plot driven, The Silent Patient is also a look at different psychologies and how vulnerable children are to their circumstances, especially in relationships to their parents and other family. Both Theo and Alicia suffered miserable childhoods and were subjected to pain and rejection. Through his story, the author asks important questions about nature versus nurture. Would his characters be different people if they’d had better childhoods?

Michaelides also cleverly ties The Silent Patient to the Greek play, Alcestis and the tragic choices that are made between Alcestis and her husband. I enjoyed this parallel very much and how it explains Alicia’s behavior.

The Silent Patient is the author’s debut novel and the type of book you want to start and finish in the same day. I recommend it to readers who like the fast pace of a thriller with the bonus of interesting characters and ideas.

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Audiobook: Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens, narrated by Rachel Fulginiti and Caitlin Davies

Audiobook
Never Let You Go
by
Chevy Stevens

Narrated by Rachel Fulginiti and Caitlin Davies

Rating:

Lindsey Nash thinks her future is bright. Eleven years ago, she escaped an abusive marriage and her husband, Andrew, went to jail. Now she and her teenage daughter, Sophie, are settled into Dogwood Bay, a little town near Vancouver, British Columbia. Life is normal. Sophie is a high school senior and a talented artist. Lindsey runs her own cleaning business. And there’s a new man in Lindsey’s life.

But Lindsey soon learns that good times never last forever. When Andrew is released from prison, the first and only thing on his mind is to find Lindsey and Sophie. Creepy things begin to happen. Lindsey is sure Andrew is following her and has been in her home. Will a protective order be enough?

Several questionable characters and sub-plots enhance this psychological thriller, which is filled with enjoyable red herrings. The author fills in the details of Lindsey’s marriage to Andrew and her escape in the night and develops Andrew’s character, first as a hard-drinking and abusive husband and later as an ex-con. Through alternating chapters, Stevens also shows what it’s like for Sophie, who has yearned to have a relationship with a father she barely remembers.

Through Lindsey, Stevens presents the dominant theme of the story: overcoming abuse and empowering oneself. Many of the story’s male characters have protective and possessive traits and it’s up to Lindsey to decide where and when to lean. Or can she only lean on herself?

Mother-daughter conflict also muddle up the events as Sophie begins to break away. New relationships and independent decisions wreak havoc on Lindsey’s plan to stay safe.

The slow-burning conflict builds to a wild finish and the final reveal suggests that you can never be sure who the good people are until a crisis happens.

I enjoyed this story and recommend it to listeners who are looking for an entertaining and suspenseful plot.

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Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

Baby Teeth
by
Zoje Stage

Rating:  3.5 bookmarks

Here’s a psychological thriller that will make you very uncomfortable. What are Suzette and Alex to do when life with their demonic 7-year-old daughter gets dangerous? Try to understand? Rationalize? Maintain a normal façade? What’s their breaking point?

Hanna is an adorable little girl, on the surface. But she refuses to talk and plays her parents against each other. No school will have her, so Suzette has tabled her art career to home school Hanna while Alex builds his new Scandinavian design business in Pittsburgh. Mommy is the bad parent. Daddy can do no wrong. And when Daddy’s away, Hanna’s evil deeds become more and more alarming.

When Hanna finally speaks, it’s in the chilling voice of an alter ego.

Zoje Stage’s debut thriller poses an interesting dilemma and her characters shoulder additional complex problems. Suzette comes from an unhappy childhood and struggles with Crohn’s disease. Alex wants the perfect family and misses many signs that their life is in trouble. Hanna is, well, we don’t know. The reader can only try to understand her and see what happens.

In addition to the uncomfortable subjects, readers should brace themselves for graphic language and ideas. Stage’s rough descriptions and dialogue can be very jarring. I found some of this excessive and much of it did not seem to fit her characters, who are portrayed as smooth and sophisticated. Perhaps that’s the point however, their façade is nothing like who they really are.

Alex and Suzette ultimately seek professional help which gives the reader better insight into Hanna’s problem, or maybe it doesn’t.

Themes of unconditional love, marriage, family, careers, and self-preservation run through Baby Teeth, making it a relatable story for all readers.

This is the kind of book that demands you read it straight through. Stage has created a powerful momentum and I couldn’t rest until I finished.

I received an ARC of Baby Teeth from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. While there was a disclaimer at the beginning assuring readers that all formatting issues would be addressed, these jumps and other rough draft problems were more frequent than other ARCs and were a bit of a distraction.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Brysen Mann

whos-that-indie-author

Author name:  Brysen Mann

Genre:  Psychological Thriller/Mystery/Suspense/Sci-fi

Book:  The Xeno Manifesto

Bio:  I am simply a person with a story tell. One that I hope will give the reader reason to pause, reflect, question, hopefully discuss, but most of all enjoy. My narrative has a lot of twists and turns and my tale does not end with this first book.

Favorite thing about being a writer:  The ability to write my story, my way.

Biggest challenge as an indie author:  I find the biggest challenges are getting my narrative read and reviewed because, ultimately, it is the reviews that many will judge The Xeno Manifesto, not just the cover but…the cover does pique one’s interest as well. J

Favorite books:  My favorites are still my childhood ones such as Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach and “Rikki Tikki Tavi” by Rudyard Kipling.

Contact Information:
Website:  brysenmann.com
Twitter: @brysen_mann
Instagram:  brysenmann
Email: brysenmann@gmail.com


Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

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