#bookreview Just Between Us by Rebecca Drake

justbetweenus

Length: 374 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal buy link for the PAPERBACK of this book (I read the arc on Kindle)

What they say:  Four suburban mothers conspire to cover up a deadly crime in Just Between Us, a heart-stopping novel of suspense by Rebecca Drake.

Alison, Julie, Sarah, Heather. Four friends living the suburban ideal. Their jobs are steady, their kids are healthy. They’re as beautiful as their houses. But each of them has a dirty little secret, and hidden behind the veneer of their perfect lives is a crime and a mystery that will consume them all.

Everything starts to unravel when Alison spots a nasty bruise on Heather’s wrist. She shares her suspicions with Julie and Sarah, compelling all three to investigate what looks like an increasingly violent marriage. As mysterious injuries and erratic behavior mount, Heather can no longer deny the abuse, but she refuses to leave her husband. Desperate to save her, Alison and the others dread the phone call telling them that she’s been killed. But when that call finally comes, it’s not Heather who’s dead. In a moment they’ll come to regret, the women must decide what lengths they’ll go to in order to help a friend.

Just Between Us is a thrilling glimpse into the underbelly of suburbia, where not all neighbors can be trusted, and even the closest friends keep dangerous secrets. You never really know what goes on in another person’s mind, or in their marriage.

The Review: You’ll know already that I’m a big fan of books with many characters (obviously only when done well, when they’re too confusing they send my head into a spin!), and thrillers that are page turners, but without too much violence in them and so this book was very much made for me. This is the story of a group of friends who know each other very well, but not as well as they’d thought. Like all groups there are some that get on better than others, some who secretly irritate the others, but they all meet up under the guise and go through the motions, a few glasses of wine, or a coffee and some banter.

Each  of the characters lead very different lives which makes for great reading, there’s differences in personalities, attitudes to work and then there’s of course you see too whether a positive or negative attitude prevails (and experience the boom when they collide!) I knew each of the characters within minutes and loved learning of the secrets they were keeping.

As you can see there is a bruise spotted on Heather’s wrist and the group begins to realise that they don’t know anything about the seemingly perfect marriage between her and her plastic surgeon husband, Viktor.  What happens next comes from the point of views of each of the women, as they muddle through with the largest secret they’ve ever had bearing down on them. The veering off of each of the characters into starting to look out for themselves, and turning against others is brilliantly done, with surprises popping up all over the place to throw you off course and have seeds of doubt coming into play as they realise that they may not be the only one who knows of the life changing night in question.

I really enjoyed this book and read it over two days, devouring it. Although the ending wasn’t totally for me, I found the settings and characters excellent and the surprises constant which was exactly what I needed to pull me out of a reading slump. I don’t think  it will set lovers of fast paced thrillers on fire, but for me, it was a gem and  I’ll definitely be looking out this author again. Thanks to St Martin’s Press and Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5/5

 

About the Author

rebeccadrake

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.

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The Map That Leads To You by JP Monninger

 

themap

Length: 401 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say:

Two strangers take the road less traveled…

Heather Mulgrew’s world is already mapped out: she is going to travel abroad with her friends after college, come back to a great career in September, and head into a life where not much is left to chance. But that was before an encounter on an overnight train introduces her to Jack, a passionate adventurer who changes the course of her journey and her life.

Throwing Heather’s careful itinerary to the wind, they follow Jack’s grandfather’s journal through post-World War II era Europe: Vienna, Budapest, Turkey—exotic places that serve only to heighten their feelings. As September looms, Jack urges Heather to stay with him, to keep traveling, to give in to the romance of their experience; Heather convinces him to return to the United States.

Jack has a secret that could change everything. And Heather’s world is about to be shaken to the core.

J.P. Monniger’s The Map That Leads to You is a breathtaking novel about love, loss, and the best-laid plans that are meant to be broken.

The Review:

Apologies if this review is all over the place. It reflects, in a way, my thought process on the book, which I predominantly loved, but with a few slight issues. This is the story of Heather, who is on a journey across Europe with her two best friends, Constance and Amy, who are the best of friends (I adore their friendship and their characters). More to the point, it’s the story of Jack, who Heather met along the way and who she quickly realises has taken her heart.

Jack is on his own journey, via his grandfather (a soldier in the war)’s diary. There are extracts from this diary that show of his issues and feelings about being away from home. This was a lovely touch, although I was a little disappointed because ultimately I don’t think it told me what I wanted to know. The journey itself is shown to us via maps, which I would presume to be excellent, although my kindle wouldn’t show them to me. The book reads basically as if you’re on the trip too, with vivid descriptions of the locations.

This was the part of the story that I adored, in particular as they moved from museum to gallery to monument to reminder of atrocities that had taken place, gathering the odd little facts that you devour as a tourist. As well as this, the actual ‘action’, that is the happenings, were excellent for me, although to be honest I think the fact that I leapt for them meant I was taking the wrong thing from this book. As I said this book was about the journey, and so in this way it was more supposed to be about the mundane, the everyday, the love story between Jack and Heather, which was beautiful in terms of romance, but at times I was waiting for something to upset the balance a little as opposed to just listening to very intellectual back and forths. I blame this on a short attention span and my love of rom coms and thrillers, where it’s all about what will happen next, as opposed to being in the moment and savouring every last look or action.

I really enjoyed this book even though it didn’t tick all the boxes for me, I had no feelings on either Jack or Heather, and it was telling for me that in just a few lines I felt and hearted the love between her best friend Constance and the lovely Raef, and in fact somehow felt I knew Constance and Amy more than Heather, although when the lead is telling the story that can be inevitable.

It’s a tough one to rate, trying to balance the lack of an impression made by the leads against everything else, which was all encompassing and excellent. The ending was a shocker that unfortunately didn’t affect me, which surprised me. Saying all of this I think people who DO connect will declare this book to be a standout. Definitely worth a read and I’m very glad I did. Thanks so much to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review.

Rating:4/5

About the author

JP MONNINGER is an award-winning writer in New England and Professor of English at Plymouth State University.

It’s Always The Husband by Michele Campbell

it'salwaysthehusband

Length: 320 pages

Please note the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny. They first met as college roommates and soon became inseparable, even though they are as different as three women can be. Twenty years later, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge, and someone else is urging them to jump. How did things come to this? As the novel cuts back and forth between their college years and their adult years, you see the exact reasons why these women love and hate each other – but can feelings that strong lead to murder? Or will everyone assume, as is often the case, that it’s always the husband?

The review: We start this story with a kicker:

‘She stumbled through the dark woods, the trees dripping raindrops onto her hair and party dress. Her shoes were covered in mud, and she trembled from the cold.’

This is the story of three housemates in a top college, Carlisle, all very different in personality, stature and popularity. Although inseparable, we are shown that at times they are not sure of each other and would otherwise most probably never have even met, let alone ended up being so close. There’s Aubrey, who doesn’t believe someone with her background will ever fit in somewhere as grand as Carlisle, Jenny, a down to earth local who seems to take it all in her stride, and Kate, who has never heard the word ‘no,’ and for whom popularity, wealth and stature are a given. The distinctions between these characters were perfection and I jumped between liking each of them and wondering were their agendas.

There’s a night when something happens and we are shot forward to twenty years later (loved this idea!), where some of the fortunes seem to have switched over somehow. Again I was not sure who I could trust or like. One of our trio suffers a tragic fate, and next thing we know we’re trying to solve a murder that might not be a murder. We’re led up, down and back up the garden path again, until inevitably, all becomes clear. The only thing was, it didn’t really become clear for me, as I found the ending to be like something of an afterthought, tacked on for effect. Saying that, this is subjective and many would have loved it. Aside from this I found this all to be one heck of a journey, although people who don’t like all the college years kind of stuff should be warned it takes up the first half of the book. Personally I loved the lightness of said years, that contrasted nicely with the drama and suspense that followed (also excellently done!). It was just the ending really, which was a pity, but it did disappoint me.

Thanks to St Martin’s Press and Netgalley for the book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5