“What she knew” Gilly Macmillan

Rated 5 stars ***** 2015. HarperCollins. 467 p. (Also includes a Bibliography, Reading Group Discussion Questions, and an Author Q & A.)

WhatSheKnewRachel had never gotten over her husband leaving her for another woman and their subsequent divorce. Their son had been seven years old at the time, and she tried to focus her energies on him but there were days when it was too hard to function. Sweet, gentle Ben knew how to tell when Mummy was having a hard day, and they had bonded over little things that made them their own family.

Now that he was a little older Rachel felt it important to teach him a little more independence so, when he asked to run ahead on one of their daily walks in the woods, she allowed him to do so. Within a few minutes he was out of sight and, by the time she arrived at their meeting place, he was gone.

After a half hour of hysterically searching, she called the police. Her life became a living nightmare as they pulled out all the stops in their investigation to figure out what happened to eight-year-old Ben, while the public reached their own conclusions about her incompetency as a mother on social media, television and in newspapers. Though vilified, misunderstood, abused and harassed, Rachel stood firm on one thing. She would not rest until Ben was back in her arms, and would do whatever it took to find him.

The story of a young child’s kidnapping is told through the alternating voices of his grieving mother, as well as the main detective on the case and his psychologist. Readers will find themselves riveted, alternately rooting for Rachel who is experiencing every parent’s nightmare while wondering what happened to Ben. The answer is a shocker.

Highly recommended for Adults.

“Baby Doll” Hollie Overton

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. To be published July 12, 2016. Redhook Books (Hachette).

BabyDollLily and her twin sister Abby have always been attuned to each other’s feelings and thoughts, sharing unspoken pacts to always be there for each other. When 16-year-old Lily was kidnapped and held as a sex slave for 8 years, their lives were turned upside down. During those 3,110 days of captivity, Lily gave birth, bore numerous beatings, and learned to be a perfect Baby Doll. Despite his attempts to make her forget, she drew strength from memories of her family, and used that strength to escape the night her captor got careless.

Told through the voices of Lily, Abby, her mother, and her kidnapper, “Baby Doll” takes readers on a roller coaster of emotions as we learn what Lily endured during her 8 years of captivity, and the ramifications it had on her family. Lily’s freedom affects each one differently, but the revenge planned for her disobedience by Rick, her captor, brought goose bumps of horror. This psychological thriller kept me on the edge of my seat, and will do the same for you.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Pretty Baby” Mary Kubica

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Published July 28, 2015. MIRA.

PrettyBabyHeidi and Chris Wood had a good marriage until cancer and the loss of her future family took away her dreams. She immersed herself in caring for others through charitable work, longing for the closeness she used to have with her only daughter Zoe who was now a teenager and confided only in her best friend Taylor.

Chris and Zoe were used to Heidi’s many lost causes, but were still shocked when she invited Willow, a homeless teenager, and her baby Ruby to live with them. Willow is very secretive about her past, and the Woods don’t press her, but are sure she is hiding something. However they soon find out the biggest secrets may be those you tell yourself.

“Pretty Baby” was definitely a page-turner as Chris, Heidi and Willow told their stories, but I felt the author did an injustice to Zoe. She picked at her food, barely ate, and was always cold, all signs of anorexia. I thought Heidi’s best friend Jennifer might have noticed something and was trying to talk to Heidi about it, but Heidi was in her own world. Zoe was left to drift at the edges of Chris and Heidi’s worlds; while I felt her obvious need to be noticed should have been one of the stories explored in the book.

Despite this observation, I highly recommended this book for Adults.

“The one that got away” Simon Wood

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Published March 1, 2015. Thomas & Mercer.

TheOneThatGotAwayWhen Zoe awoke that fateful night, she didn’t have any recollection as to what could have happened. In her last memory she and her friend Hollie were traveling through Vegas having fun, but she had no clue as to how they had now wound up captives in a strange place. Managing to free herself she saw Hollie being tortured, but chose to abandon her and run for her life.

In the 15 months since the attack, Zoe’s life has drastically changed. Unable to forgive herself for leaving Hollie behind, and choosing her own life over Hollie’s, she decided to punish herself. She dropped out of graduate school, separated herself from family and friends, and blamed herself everyday for Hollie’s disappearance. However her lonely existence is shattered when she learns of the murder of a young woman, which closely matches what happened to her and her friend Hollie.

Zoe decides to work with the police to find the killer, but she doesn’t know that the killer knows exactly where she lives and wants to finish the work he’d begun fifteen months earlier. Zoe is in his crosshairs as she’s the only one that ever got away from him, and he won’t make the same mistake twice.

As Wood leads readers on a desperate chase to discover the killer’s identity before he can find Zoe, the action-packed chapters had me completely engrossed. With each move on the killer’s part bringing him ever closer to Zoe, I couldn’t help but read faster to find out what would happen next to her. “The one that got away” will make readers take a closer look at their surroundings because we now know there are killers amongst us.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.

“Beyond Suspicion” Catherine A. Winn

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Poisoned Pen Press. Published May 5, 2015.

BeyondSuspicionFifteen-year-old Shelby hates her new stepfather, and wishes her real dad would come back into her life. Ever since her mom married Roger all she does is attend social functions and expect Shelby to babysit her little brother Josh. Shelby is excited to have been invited to her best friend Valerie’s Sweet Sixteen party, and welcomes the chance to hang with her friends.

She is devastated when her mom insists she has to babysit Josh so she could attend a gathering with Roger, refusing to allow Shelby to go to the party. Shelby loves her brother, but doesn’t want to miss the chance to go to her first boy-girl party. Shelby is furious when her step father steps in and orders her to watch the baby, so she decides to take him for a walk in the park to cool down and to plot revenge against Roger.

In a moment of distraction at the park, someone kidnaps Josh. The police don’t believe Shelby’s insistence that she’d seen a suspicious looking couple in a white van at the scene. It doesn’t take long before the entire town believes Shelby killed her brother in a fit of anger over having to miss Valerie’s party.

No one is willing to believe her story of what happened, so Shelby decides she will have to find Josh without the police. With the help of a cute senior named Matt, Shelby embarks on a desperate mission to save her little brother before it’s too late. As each clue leads her closer to the kidnappers Shelby discovers a raw strength and courage she’d never known but, with time running out, it may not be enough for little Josh.

Despite the “ho hum” cover, “Beyond Suspicion” is filled with action and suspense. It kept me glued to its pages to find out what happened to baby Josh, and was filled with surprises.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Normal: A Novel” Graeme Cameron

Rated 5 stars ***** Ebook. ARC. Published March 31, 2015. MIRA Books.

Normal“Normal” takes readers into the mind of a nameless serial killer who is not a “Silence of the Lambs” chop them up and eat them for lunch kind of a guy, but someone his victims may have seen regularly and dismissed as ordinary. As he describes how he stalked, killed and hacked up the body of an 18-year-old girl, readers will feel a shudder of revulsion for this heinous crime as they are ready to confine him to the deepest, darkest jail cell and throw away the key.

However, as a bit of humanity begins to peek out from his depraved life after he meets the woman of his dreams, readers begin to feel a bit guilty to find themselves feeling sympathetic towards him. How could they care, and laugh at some of his antics, knowing he is a cold-hearted murderer and is holding someone hostage in his soundproof basement? The answer lies in the author’s ability to create a character that, even with his many flaws, keeps readers invested and interested.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.

“Lily and Taylor” Elise Moser

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Groundwood Books. 186 pp. (Includes “Author’s Note.”)

LIlyAndTaylorTaylor lives with her older sister Tannis and her son Mason. Tannis is constantly beaten by her boyfriend, but loves him and is sure things will get better. When he winds up killing her in a fit of rage, Taylor moves in with her grandmother and Mason. Little Mason gives Taylor a goal in life as she helps care for him, but she misses Tannis and her boyfriend Devon. Despite the fact that Devon regularly beat her, wouldn’t let her have friends, and made her call him several times a day to “check in” Taylor loved him, and would do anything to make him happy.

Lily has spent years taking care of her brain-injured mother, helping her recover from abusive boyfriends, but has managed to hide her troubles. She and Taylor become fast friends as Taylor gradually becomes a better student, leaving her to think she can live a normal life, but Devon has other plans.

Unhappy with Taylor’s inability to visit due to finances, Devon decides to unexpectedly show up with his friend Conor and insist Taylor go for a ride. After inviting herself along to keep Taylor safe, the girls wind up being held captive in a freezing cabin in the middle of the snow covered woods. As events unfold, readers wonder if Taylor will ever gain the strength to love herself more than she loves her boyfriend and break the cycle of abuse in her family.

“Lily and Taylor” paints a true picture of the ugliness of domestic abuse in teen and adult relationships. To drive this point home the author includes statistics, tips and hotline information, hoping her readers will make the call that will let them out of their own abusive situations. I hold out the same hope as the author.

Recommended for readers aged 14 and older.

Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).